- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Democrats and the liberal media greeted Friday’s announcement of a 9.7 percent unemployment rate as great news. Contrary to political propaganda designed to make the economy seem less troubled than it is, the real unemployment situation in America is becoming increasingly dire.

Democratic callousness toward the struggles of working Americans is breathtaking. “Today is a big day in America,” said a shockingly out-of-touch Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday. “Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good.” Facing a tough re-election bid in the fall, Mr. Reid might soon know how good it is to lose a job.

The senator’s stupid comment aside, that number was considered rosy because the top 20 forecasters surveyed by Reuters news agency had predicted that 50,000 jobs would be lost last month. What’s being left unsaid in many quarters is that the loss of those 36,000 jobs last month was worse than the loss of 26,000 in January. Even more to the point is that discussions about the unemployment rate missed a basic point: The new jobs being created were largely temporary, part-time jobs.

Overall, the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent in February, but, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percent of the work force “employed part-time for economic reasons” rose from 5.3 percent to 5.7 percent. Those workers are not in a very enviable position, working one to 34 hours per week “because of an economic reason, such as their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time jobs.” Getting a 20-hour-a-week, part-time, low-paying job takes someone off the unemployment roles for the purpose of government statistics, but there’s no reason the Obama administration or the media should consider that trend to be good news.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Establishment Survey shows that the big area of job growth has been in “temporary help-services,” which added 47,500 jobs last month. Many of those jobs are only part time. They are hardly the great jobs people are hoping to find, though the temporary jobs might eventually turn into full-time, permanent jobs in some cases.

Menial work is playing an increasingly central role in keeping unemployment numbers down. During the past six months, 275,100 jobs have been created in “temporary help-services.” At the same time, there has been a net loss of 556,000 jobs. To put it differently, the 275,100 temporary jobs were offset by a loss of 831,100 permanent positions. This is what Obama administration officials and the Senate majority leader say is progress.

Dubious claims also were made that more jobs very likely would have been added if the snowstorms hadn’t hit the East Coast this winter. No empirical evidence has been offered to bolster such a debatable shot in the dark. Cutting down the number of workdays because of blizzards may have delayed people being hired, but it just as well could have delayed some employees from being laid off. The bottom line is hardly clear, but idling work for a week or so actually might have alleviated the need to lay off some workers.

Talking heads might want to try reading the reports put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Democrats’ stimulus policies clearly have delayed economic recovery. Temporary, part-time jobs are better than nothing, but Americans shouldn’t be satisfied with that.

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