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EDITORIAL: 7.9 percent

Americans still find themselves searching for jobs

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Just in time for the election, the Labor Department updated its employment figures. The official jobless tally on Friday ticked up to 7.9 percent. The broadest measure of unemployment, known as U-6, stayed about the same, at an alarmingly high 14.6 percent. The numbers affirm what everyone instinctively knows: The administration's economic policies over the past four years have been a bust.

At the start of his term, Mr. Obama insisted the country borrow $833 billion for stimulus spending. He guaranteed this bold move was going to bring the unemployment rate down to 5 percent. Instead, job growth stalled, and millions have simply given up looking for a job. Just a year ago, 64.1 percent of the working-age population enjoyed a regular paycheck. Last month, the number dipped further to 63.8 percent. In a healthy economy, the labor participation rate is supposed to be between 66 and 67 percent of the population. The gap in the participation rate is the equivalent of almost 5 million people giving up hope -- a tremendous loss to the economy and society, as those affected become dependent on welfare programs to get by.

Neither the quantity nor the quality of jobs being created in the present "recovery" are reason for optimism. Too many of the jobs created in the last two months have been either part-time, or positions to fill the needs of the holiday retail season. Part-time jobs rarely lift a household out of poverty, and poverty rates are already at the highest rate in decades. Holiday retail jobs are by their nature temporary, and when they end the official unemployment number will climb once more.

Just as troubling is the fate of the 5 million long-term unemployed, who've been stuck in the benefits line for 27 weeks or more. About 40 percent of those receiving unemployment checks fall into this category, which carries the serious risk of falling into permanent poverty as their savings dwindle and skills atrophy.

The official scorekeepers at the National Bureau of Economic Research say the current recession ended 40 months ago. That's not reflected in the jobs numbers. According to Minneapolis Federal Reserve data, the 1948 recession most closely matches the 2007 economic collapse. By every relevant measure, Harry S. Truman's recovery outperformed Mr. Obama's. By the time Truman's second term came to an end, employment boomed, rising 17 percent, with gross domestic product (GDP) expanding 28 percent. Under Mr. Obama, economic growth has remained under the 3 percent annual level needed to make a serious dent in high unemployment, for a cumulative gain of 7.2 percent in 13 quarters. That leaves us 3 percent worse off in terms of total jobs than we were before the recession began.

The last official assessment of the jobs situation before the election confirms four years of the administration's borrow-and-spend tactics have failed to deliver. That's bad news for Mr. Obama, who is currently campaigning on an economic platform that promises more of the same. America needs a change of direction before a true recovery can take hold.

The Washington Times

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