- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

President Obama seized upon last week’s improved jobs report as “more good news” on the economy, though the true unemployment rate never made the headlines.

Anytime jobs are created it’s good news, but a major factor that produced the drop in the official unemployment rate to 8.3 percent was in large part a manifestation of the economy’s underlying weakness that the national news media didn’t acknowledge or buried in its stories.

Also left unaddressed was the issue of who should get credit for the job increases. It clearly was not Mr. Obama, whose stimulus plan failed to make a significant dent in the jobless rate in his first three years in office. But we’ll deal with that in a moment.

First and foremost, the real story of Mr. Obama’s weak jobs performance is about what the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ (BLS) unemployment number leaves out, or at least plays down.

That’s the 2.8 million discouraged American workers who want employment but can’t find it and have given up looking. Under the BLS‘ perverse mathematics, those people are “not counted as in the labor force, even though they wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job in the prior 12 months,” the agency said deep down in its report.

Thus, the government does not count them as among the unemployed even though they are, well, unemployed.

If you add these 2.8 million discouraged workers who are victims of Mr. Obama’s failed economic policies, the real unemployment rate is a whopping 9.9 percent instead of the 8.3 percent the administration announced Friday.

Most people do not realize the BLS numbers are the result of a national household survey, i.e., a poll, though it is not the only survey. The Gallup Poll regularly surveys Americans across the country to determine who’s working and who isn’t, and its numbers put the unemployment rate at a higher 8.7 percent, and the underemployment rate - workers in temporary jobs or part-timers - at 18.7 percent.

This is the bleak, unarguable reality of the Obama economy, and it is one Republicans ought to make their No. 1 issue in this year’s elections.

Ten percent unemployment is not something to boast about, yet there was Mr. Obama at a fire station in Arlington on Friday, saying “the economy is growing stronger.”

The president ought to double-check with his people at the Commerce Department who keep track of economic data. Last year, Mr. Obama’s “stronger” economy grew by a meager 1.7 percent, a pathetic growth rate by any recent standard.

But who really deserves the credit for the job gains we have seen in recent months? Mr. Obama is taking credit for the creation of more than 200,000 jobs in January, though that’s a stretch at best.

What policies can he point to that has led to the modest job growth we’ve seen thus far? His $800 billion spending stimulus bill in 2009 that pumped money into hundreds of federal and state agencies to create “shovel-ready jobs”? Many economists have dismissed that as a failure, producing relatively few permanent jobs.

The 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax that will expire at the end of this year put additional money into American paychecks, but it hasn’t directly produced many jobs, either.

Outside of these two initiatives, there have been no real major economic growth plans to speak of. Mr. Obama said the unemployment rate would be below 8 percent by now, but that hasn’t materialized.

Story Continues →