- - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The government reported last week that the economy created only 217,000 jobs in May, with hardly a peep of serious complaint from the White House or Democrats in Congress.

The news media’s economic reporters, who are usually given to whitewashing these dreadful jobs figures, said it was a sign the Obama economy is on the comeback trail. There were no fulminations from Democratic leaders that this was a shameful report in a rich, $17 trillion economy of about 160 million workers, many of whom still can’t find good full-time jobs.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, whose home state of Nevada suffers from 8 percent unemployment, uttered no criticism about the job data or the impotent, economic policies that produced it. Other Democratic leaders across Capitol Hill were just as mute, but not everyone was going to take this situation lying down.

When the minuscule job numbers were reported on CNBC, only Rick Santelli, the popular, pugnacious bond-market analyst, didn’t mince words. He flatly called the employment figure “mediocre.”

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez wouldn’t go that far, of course, but even he didn’t like the way the job market’s been underperforming.

“There are no victory laps being done around here. We have a lot of unfinished business,” he said. No kidding.

Still, for the most part, the nightly network news shows generally fell in line with a generally positive, things-are-improving view of the jobs report. Most left out some of the worst statistics, which were either buried in the report or showed up elsewhere.

The number of Americans who have been without a job for six months or longer — about 3.4 million — remained virtually unchanged. They constitute about one-third of the nation’s jobless.

An additional 700,000 people told survey workers for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics they have stopped looking for a job. Add up these dropouts and the workers who are forced to take part-time employment when they need a full-time job, and the real unemployment-underemployment rate is above 13 percent.

Millions of discouraged Americans who have given up looking for full-time work because they can’t find one or for other reasons remain the major, driving force behind the decline in the official unemployment rate over the past five years, according to business economist Peter Morici.

More than 7 million Americans who worked in part-time jobs last month said they need full-time employment.

America’s shrinking labor force remained unchanged at 62.8 percent, its lowest rate since the 1970s, and another critical economic symptom of an economy in decline.

The news broadcasts and all the newspaper headlines touted the official average jobless rate, which remains stuck at 6.3 percent. Millions of Americans do not work in the “average” column, though. Look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics state-by-state unemployment rate and the numbers tell a sharply different, and far more depressing, story.

Nearly half of all the states (23) have unemployment rates above 6 percent. Fifteen of them are near, at or over 7 percent.

We’re talking about the biggest and most populated state economies, too: California (7.8 percent), Michigan (7.4 percent), New Jersey (6.9 percent), and New York (6.7 percent) to name only a few.

At the same time, while the network news shows were cheering May’s employment figures, they ignored jobless data that rarely gets much attention. All but overlooked was the fact that unemployment rose for large sectors of young workers, who disappear through the large cracks in the news media’s shallow reporting.

Unemployment actually climbed for Americans who have only a high school diploma, from 6.3 to 6.5 percent, and jumped from 8.9 percent to 9.1 percent for high school dropouts.

Equally worrisome is the length of time the Obama economy has been struggling to get out of its “recovery” phase and accelerate its painfully slow pace of economic growth. Or, as we saw in the first three months of this year, no growth. The economy shrank by 1 percent between January and March.

Last week, CNBC’s Mr. Santelli used a chart to remind viewers that we’ve been through many deep recessions or economic downers, and have come roaring out them in an average of two years. He gave three very instructive comparisons.

The bottom of his chart showed how Mr. Obama’s economy has been limping in and out of the recovery doldrums for the past 60 months.

Then he pointed to the initially lackluster economy of the 1990s that came to life in President Clinton’s second term when he signed a Republican bill to slash the capital-gains tax. That sparked an explosion of investment growth and job creation that led to a full-employment economy.

At the top of his chart was the across-the-board, tax-cut-driven Reagan economy in the 1980s, when the United States came out of a deep recession in just two years.

Mr. Santelli’s point was inarguable. Pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-capital investment policies always work, as they did for Presidents Reagan and Clinton (and for President Kennedy before them), both of whom championed trade expansion and robust energy development as part of their economic revitalization.

Mr. Obama did the opposite. He raised taxes, gave only lip service to trade, then hit the brakes on energy and blew about $1 trillion on an inept, waste-ridden, economic-stimulus spending program that left our job-challenged economy where it is today.

For the past year or more, Americans have said the economy and jobs remain their highest concerns, according to poll after poll. Friday’s pathetic jobs report shows that’s not going to change as long as Mr. Obama is president.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.