- - Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Obama economy added fewer jobs in August than economists expected, but as usual the story drew relatively little attention in the news media.

No matter how you slice or dice the latest employment numbers, the 173,000 jobs produced last month is a very anemic figure in a workforce of 160 million.

Economists had forecast a larger, 220,000 job gain, which in itself wouldn’t have been much to write home about. But the lackluster Obama economy couldn’t even reach that level of new job creation.

The economy wasn’t running anywhere near full throttle in the seventh year of Barack Obama’s presidency, which was still said to be “in recovery.”

The disappointing Labor Department report said there was little change in many of the key employment sectors.

“The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) held at 2.2 million in August and accounted for 27.7 percent of the unemployed,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

“The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in August at 6.5 million,” the bureau said.

“These were workers who needed full-time employment — but were working part-time because their work hours has been cut back, or they could not find a full-time job, the report said.

Then there were nearly 2 million workers, described as “marginally attached to the labor force,” who the federal government didn’t count among the unemployed because they wanted work, had searched for a job in the previous 12 months, but couldn’t find one.

The bureau didn’t put them in the unemployment column because they had not looked for work in the four weeks before the survey.

Then there were large numbers of individuals who were working, but in low-paying jobs at restaurants and drinking places. Jobs in higher-paying work, including mining and manufacturing, declined.

Factory jobs fell by 17,000 last month and showed little change in July. Since the end of 2014, mining industries have lost nearly 100,000 jobs.

“Employment in other major industries, including construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and government, showed little change over the month,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

In addition to the government’s dismal jobs report, the overall economy was showing signs of weakness as well.

President Obama insists that manufacturing is growing by leaps and bound, but The Washington Post reported last week that it had “expanded in August at the slowest pace since May 2013” due to “anemic demand from emerging from emerging markets.”

Further lethargy was evident in other sectors, including home mortgage refinancing applications, which rose by a weak 0.2 percent at the end of August.

While the gross domestic product grew 3.7 percent in the second quarter, economists are forecasting now that GDP will grow by only 2.5 percent this year.

Meantime, consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the economy’s growth, has been slowing down, according to the Gallup Poll.

“Though down slightly, Americans’ spending remains in somewhat of a holding pattern,” Gallup said this week.

The Obama economy has had its critics ever since he was sworn into office in 2009, but they have largely been Republicans and Wall Street financiers and lower-income, working-class Americans who have been having a tough time finding full-time, good-paying jobs.

But now some of his earliest supporters are complaining about his weak economic record.

Mr. Obama’s defenders have maintained over his two terms that the economy has been improving at a solid rate. But other supporters are breaking with the party line.

One of them is billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, who voiced doubts Tuesday that the economy is showing strong growth.

Instead, Mr. Buffett says it’s been growing at a very tepid 2 percent rate. “We’re still on that path. We’ve been on it for six years,” he said.

“That’s not a bad rate, but it’s not a booming rate, either,” he told the CNBC business news network.

But beside the lack of jobs, Mr. Obama’s biggest failure has been has been on worker wages.

In a blistering critique in The New York Times, economic reporter Neil Irwin said, “This was to be the year of bigger wage gains. It’s not.”

Instead, “a wide range of economic measures points to the same sluggish pay rises in 2015 that American workers witnessed in 2011 and every year since,” Mr. Irwin wrote.

“The roughly 2 percent annual rise in wages is considerably lower than what has historically been evident when the jobless rate is in its current range (it was 5.l percent in August).

“Using data since 1965, the unemployment rate over the last year would predict an annual wage increase for nonmanagerial workers of about 2.5 percent; it has actually been only 1.85 percent,” he said.

Republicans in Congress have been working on a full reform of our dysfunctional tax code, scrubbing away its costly loopholes, and reducing the tax rates on business and individuals.

That would boost economic growth, jobs and wages.

But Mr. Obama has only given lip service to these reforms, even though they were recommended by the co-chairmen of a presidential commission he appointed.

That’s something poorly paid workers need to keep in mind when vote for president next year. The Democrats have a very poor record on this critical issue.

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

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