- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The welcome addition of 192,000 jobs last month comes with some huge caveats that suggest that the Obama economy isn’t going to reduce the high unemployment rate anytime soon.

This remains a fragile economy under President Obama’s anti-growth, anti-capital-formation policies. The Washington Post’s front page headline on last week’s jobs report said it all: “Jobs report gives shaky recovery a foothold.”

Despite the White House’s plethora of excuses, the fact remains that after two years of Mr. Obama’s dismal economic policies, the U.S. economy is still shaky, still struggling and, even now, still producing anemic job numbers.

Buried deep down into the Post story on the Labor Department’s report was this grim acknowledgement:

“At the current pace of improvement, it will take years to put a sizable portion of the 13.7 million who are still unemployed back to work. And the ultimate barometer of the job market - the ratio of employed workers to the total population - did not budge, despite the stronger job creation.”

Notably, the number of workers who have been jobless for more than six months increased. And wages were stagnant, with the work week frozen at 34.2 hours and the average hourly earnings up by only 1 cent.

Similar caveats were sprinkled throughout the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment numbers that showed the jobs situation is as bleak as ever for many Americans. Among the report’s findings:

c “The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 8.3 million,” the BLS said. “These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.”

c “In February, 2.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, up from 2.5 million a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months” but could not find work.

c While the unemployment rate changed little at nearly 9 percent, millions of Americans - especially minorities - do not fall into that statistical column. The black unemployment rate was 15.3 percent, 11.6 percent for Hispanics and 23.9 percent for teenagers.

You won’t hear this on the nightly network news, but the national unemployment rate can be a very deceptive figure that hides more than it reveals about the dearth of job creation in America.

According to the most recent BLS state-by-state unemployment numbers, nearly half of the states had jobless rates higher than 9 percent, and 10 states were in double digits: Mississippi, 10.2 percent; Kentucky, 10.3 percent; Georgia, 10.4 percent; Oregon, 10.6 percent; South Carolina, 10.9 percent; Michigan, 11.1 percent; Rhode Island, 11.5 percent; Florida, 12 percent; California, 12.5 percent; and Nevada, 14.9 percent.

Another dozen states had unemployment in the 9.1 percent to 9.7 percent range that had many Americans dubious about the White House’s exhuberant claims that the economy was back on track and that the president’s policies “are working.”

These state unemployment numbers should provide the White House with a strong dose of reality - especially in pivotal electoral states such as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia.

If Mr. Obama and the Democrats really think they are going to enter the 2012 elections bragging about lower unemployment, they may be in for a big surprise.

“It is still early to break out the champagne, because the February surge came after a weak January when only 36,000 jobs were added,” University of Maryland economist Peter Morici said.

“This economy must add 13 million private-sector jobs over the next three years - 360,000 each month - to bring unemployment down to 6 percent,” Mr. Morici said in his latest jobs report analysis.

“Core private-sector jobs - jobs net of (federally subsidized) health and social services and temp positions - must grow at least 300,000 a month to accomplish that goal,” he said.

There are no signs in this economy or in Mr. Obama’s future policies (if he has any) that would yield such employment numbers. Indeed, he has a long way to go to match President George W. Bush’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate in 2007, the year before the recession struck.

If Mr. Obama has a jobs agenda, it not only isn’t working, it is killing the industries that can create the jobs we need.

With the price of oil exceeding $100 a barrel and regular gasoline approaching - and in some places hitting - $4 a gallon, that very likely could mean slower growth and less job creation as consumers rein in spending and businesses cut back on hiring.

What is Mr. Obama’s policy on energy? He is imposing moratoriums on deep-water drilling for oil in the United States when we should be expanding oil exploration and production and refineries to bring gasoline prices down.

Job creation in manufacturing remains anemic, not only because of a weak economy, but because this administration is doing nothing to negotiate and enact trade agreements that would open up overseas markets to U.S. goods.

The American people are looking for some straight talk on jobs, and they aren’t getting it - not from the nightly news, which ignores the story, and not from the White House, which is in denial about its own anti-jobs, anti-growth policies.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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