Tags: Unemployment Rate

Will We Ever See 65 Percent Workforce Participation Again?


Another “meh” jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning, with the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent.

The workforce participation rate among those age 16 and older was 65.7 percent in January 2009, when President Obama took office. Now it is 63.6 percent.

The highest level in the past ten years was 66.8 percent in February 2002 (and it remained between that and 65.8 for the entirety of the Bush years); its peak since Obama took office was in 65.8 percent in February 2009; its lowest point was in August of last year, when it hit 63.5 percent. It has not been 64 percent since 2011.

Some of that figure represents the retiring aging baby boomers, but a large portion of it represents folks who have simply dropped out of the workforce — not employed, and no longer looking.

Tags: Jobs , Unemployment Rate

What Our Unemployment Rate Measures . . . and What It Doesn’t


With such widespread surprise and skepticism about this morning’s report on unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we should unpack a bit about it.

Jim Pethokoukis has been the go-to guy on this stuff even before he started at AEI, and he explains how much of this month’s growth is driven by “a flood of 582,000 part-time jobs.” The number of workers in part-time jobs who want full-time work actually increased by 600,000 last month.

It’s worth noting that one big reason that you hear so much grumbling and skepticism about the official unemployment rate (the U-3) is the difference between what it measures and what Americans see around them — perhaps best measured by the U-6, which includes “marginally attached,” “discouraged workers” and those working part-time who want, and can’t find, full-time work.

And as I wrote yesterday, there’s an argument for a U-7 number, one that includes the long-term unemployed, who haven’t looked for a job in a year but who say they want to work.

And few Americans know about the “discouraged worker” factor in the statistics — the factor of the unemployed worker who was looking for work sometime in the past year but has stopped looking for work. The most recent jobs report indicated that there are 844,000 discouraged workers who aren’t counted in the official unemployment rate.The official rate is known as the U-3 figure; adding “marginally attached” workers and then adding “discouraged workers” gives us the U-4 and U-5 figures, respectively. Then there is the question of how to classify those who are working part-time but who want, and cannot find, full-time work. Technically these workers are employed, but they are likely to be struggling financially; there are 8 million Americans in this category; adding these to U-5 brings us to the U-6 figure. Finally, Paul Solman, the business and economics editor for PBS’s NewsHour, believes that the long-term unemployed — those who have stopped looking for a year or more, but say they want a job, a figure reaching about 7 million — should be included, in a figure he labels U-7.

If you include these groups, the number of “unemployed” booms from 12.5 million to 27 million.

By the way, the number of Americans who haven’t looked for work in a year but who still want jobs declined slightly in this morning’s report, from 6,957,000 to 6,727,000.

Tags: Unemployment Rate

Economic Model Predicts Romney Landslide?


Every predictive model can prove wrong; there’s always the possibility that some factor of the economy, society, or voter expectations or attitudes has changed from past cycles. But for what it’s worth . . .

A model which has foretold the correct result of the Electoral College selections in U.S. Presidential elections since 1980, has predicted a loss for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

The forecast was made by two professors at the University of Colorado who used economic data and unemployment figures from each state to predict a Republican win come November.

Political science professors Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry’s study predicts 218 electoral votes for President Barack Obama and 320 for Republican Mitt Romney with the Republican candidate winning every seat currently considered to be on the fence.

. . . It also showed that the apparent advantage of  holding the White House as a Democratic candidate disappears when the national unemployment rate hits 5.6 per cent.

‘Based on our forecasting model, it becomes clear that the president is in electoral trouble,’ Professor Bickers said.

The professors’ analysis concluded that Mitt Romney would take home all swing states including Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado.

Some may dismiss that scenario at this point, pointing to the president’s lead in most of the swing states. But in most of those swing states, Obama is polling in the mid-to-high 40s. If indeed, most undecideds break against the incumbent — which doesn’t always happen, but incumbents’ best-case scenario is usually a 50-50 split — then Obama could indeed end up with the short end of the stick in swing state after swing state.

Perhaps the most fundamental question when looking at the election is: If the country endures 45 straight months of 8 percent unemployment or higher, how many voters will go to the polls to affirmatively select four more years of the same leadership?

Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , Unemployment Rate

8.3 Percent Unemployment Rate.... Sigh.


Surprise! Another lousy jobs report.

Obama and his fans will jump up and down about the 163,000 jobs created.

While economists disagree on precisely how many jobs need to be added each month just to keep pace with the additional workers, it generally ranges from 100,000 per month (AP) to 100,000 to 125,000 (Heritage Foundation) to about 130,000 (New York Times). Some say a “sustained recovery” requires 250,000 jobs per month.

Of course, the unemployment rate ticked up from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent. And Zero Hedge makes the argument that when you look at what the Bureau of Labor Statistics did for “seasonal adjustment” and the changes in the birth and death rate, the job creation number looks much, much less reliable.

The conversation among the analysts on CNBC this morning has been quite amusing:

“This is what happens when people expect nothing – if you get something more than nothing, they’re happy.”

“The economy is growing – barely. We’re not adding jobs in any significant numbers. Confidence is at recessionary levels.”

“This stinks.”

“Yes, but the rate of stink is not as bad.”

The unemployment rate when Obama made his “If I don’t have this thing done in three years” statement was.. 8.3 percent. The same rate it is today.

Tags: Unemployment Rate

Awaiting, and Dreading, Today’s Jobs Report


From the last Morning Jolt of the week…

By the Time You Get This, You May Already Feel Depressed About the Economy

It’s the first Friday of the month, and you know what that means! Time to tune in to CNBC, watch the anchors breathe in with eager anticipation and then, at 8:30 eastern… watch everyone let out a long, slow, exhale of disappointment as the unemployment rate (probably) stays the same, or (maybe) goes up or down one tenth of one percentage point. Smart economic minds will go into the details of the numbers, point to this one particular figure which look like a bright spot and this other figure which looks really troubling, the partisans will spin their messages, every political figure will issue a brief statement that today’s troubling numbers/despite today’s improved numbers, the situation is dire and the policy proposal they’ve been touting for a year must be enacted now, blah blah blah…

You know what the whole thing means. The economy is crappy. It’s been crappy, for a really long time, and it’s probably going to remain crappy for a good long while.

The preview:

“It seems that the economy is pretty much locked in to this sort of dreary trajectory,” says Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities. “Conditions are not quite weak enough to suggest an outright recession, but the near-term outlook is clearly deficient.”

Jobless claims have been erratic throughout the last few weeks, largely due to temporary layoffs in the automotive industry. It’s tough to glean anything fundamental from that data heading into Friday’s report. ADP also reported 163,000 private-sector jobs were added last month. But ADP’s inconsistent history of being an accurate predictor of the government’s monthly report is well documented.

In other words, this monthly report appears tougher than usual to forecast. 

James Pethokoukis shares one economic model that forecasts doom for the president’s reelection bid:

Political scientist Douglas Hibbs looks at two factors when forecasting presidential elections: a) per capita real disposable personal income over the incumbent president’s term, and b) cumulative U.S. military fatalities in overseas conflicts.

And he’s predicting a near-landslide win for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, with Obama losing by about as big a margin in 2012 as he won back in 2008. Under Hibbs Bread and Peace model, Romney wins 52.5% to Obama’s 47.5%.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee it will shake out that way, but it’s… interesting.

Tags: Unemployment Rate

Obama Adviser: Don’t ‘Read Too Much into Any One Monthly Report.’


The Obama response to this morning’s jobs report is a gift to the Romney campaign:

The White House urged Americans unsettled by the latest weak jobs figures — just 80,000 added to the payrolls in June — not to “read too much” into any single monthly report. President Barack Obama, chasing votes on a bus tour in Ohio, was expected to address the latest sign of an anemic recovery that threatens his shot at reelection.

“While the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, much more remains to be done to repair the damage from the financial crisis and deep recession that followed,” Alan Krueger, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.

. . . the dismal new jobs report landed like a political body blow on Obama: Employers added just 80,000 jobs in June, leaving the national unemployment rate at 8.2% four months before the election.

It was the third straight month that the Labor Department reported poor hiring.

“It is important not to read too much into any one monthly report,” Krueger said. “There are no quick fixes to the problems we face that were more than a decade in the making.”

Okay, how about 41 straight monthly jobs reports with 8 percent unemployment or higher?

UPDATE: Speaking in Poland, Ohio, President Obama spends 12 minutes talking about how the celebrated  his daughters, eating on the campaign trail, and his and Michelle’s parents, before finally acknowledging today’s jobs report. Pointing to the fact that 80,000 jobs were created, he declares the news is “a step in the right direction,” but he’s not done yet, much work remains to be done, and so on.

Tags: Barack Obama , Unemployment Rate

Four Years of Disappointing Jobs Reports


Kids, you may not believe this, but there was a time in America when we didn’t all spend the first Friday of the month watching CNBC and groaning at the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report on unemployment.

Yes, today’s jobs report was a disappointment. Almost all of them for the past four years have been disappointing (yes, the economy started losing jobs in February 2008). The single best one was May 2010, when 516,000 jobs were created. The next-best month in that span was this January, with 275,000 jobs created. Only 10 of the past 48 months have seen 200,000 or more jobs created.

Monthly job creation bounced around during the Bush years (when the unemployment rate ranged between 4 and 6 percent), but there were some nice monthly pops in the mix. March 2004 saw 337,000 jobs created, April 2005 saw 360,000 jobs created, November 2005 saw 334,000 jobs created, February 2006 saw 316,000 jobs created, January 2007 saw 236,000 jobs created.

As CNN noted, “In April 1984, the economy added 363,000 jobs . . . And the Reagan recovery sustained its momentum through the election, averaging 300,000 new jobs a month from May to October.”

In the booming 1990s, with a smaller total population, the country created more than 400,000 jobs in a single month several times: 462,000 jobs in March 1994; 434,000 jobs in February 1996, 404,000 jobs in February 1999; 405,000 jobs in October 1999. The economy created an astounding 507,000 jobs in October 1997.

We know this is an economy that, under the right circumstances, can create gobs and gobs of jobs in a short period of time. Yes, policies out of Washington are only one of several factors, and troubles in Europe aren’t helping. But Americans should really be tired of an administration that always has new excuses: “This recession turned out to be a lot deeper than any of us realized,” “a string of bad luck,” “the Japanese earthquake” “an Arab Spring” “economic headwinds from Europe” “uncertainty from the debt-ceiling debate” “globalization” “automation” “ATMs,” and so on.

Secondly, how much faith should they have in Democratic ideas to spur job creation when Democrats spent much of 2009, 2010, and 2011 insisting the economy was already fixed?

Does Rep. Jim Moran (D., Va.) regret saying in June 2010, “The economy has recovered”?

Does Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner regret writing an op-ed entitled “Welcome to the Recovery” in the New York Times on August 2, 2010?

Does Ron Sims, deputy secretary of housing and urban development, regret writing on the White House blog that “this summer is sure to be a Summer of Economic Recovery” in June 2010?

Does DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz regret saying in June 2011, “I’m going to take ownership right now because we began to turn the economy around”?

They thought their policies fixed the economy. But we’re still waiting to see serious job creation. It’s time for a new approach.

Tags: Barack Obama , Unemployment Rate

Did GDP and the Unemployment Rate Become De-linked?


The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features signs you may be a Rom-neck, the worst month for the national deficit ever, and then this curious development in the economic numbers:

GDP, Unemployment Rate… You Two Used to Be So Close. How Did You Grow Apart?

In the Wall Street Journal, Jon Hilsenrath asks:

Many economists in the past few weeks have again reduced their estimates of growth. The economy by many estimates is on track to grow at an annual rate of less than 2% in the first three months of 2012. The economy expanded just 1.7% last year. And since the final months of 2009, when unemployment peaked, the economy has expanded at a pretty paltry 2.5% annual rate.

How can an economy that is growing so slowly produce such big declines in unemployment?

And now, Morning Jolt readers, I will surprise you by quoting some liberal bloggers. No, really, stay with me, because I think they articulate what you’re going to hear a lot of in 2012: a sense that the economy as we experience it does not match up to what the official numbers say.

Ezra Klein:

Something odd is happening in the economy. Jobs are coming back, and relatively quickly. But growth is lagging. Or, at the least, we think it is. Virtually every estimate of GDP growth for the first quarter of 2012 is below two percent — that’s a third lower than it was in the fourth quarter of 2011, when payroll growth was lower — and many of those estimates are being revised downward as new data streams in.

A couple of things could be going on here. One possibility is that the preliminary GDP data is wrong. That happens. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the early GDP data said the economy shrunk by 3.8 percent. Later on, we learned the real number was closer to nine percent. A smaller, more positive discrepancy might explain this riddle, too… Then there’s the possibility that the previous three months of job growth turn out to be a tease, and the recovery will falter in the middle of the year. Call that the “2011 scenario”: Back in February, March and April of 2011, payrolls rose by an average of 239,000 jobs a month. In May, June and July, that fell to an average of 78,000 a month. So far, this economy has not been kind to those who try and extrapolate a self-sustaining recovery from a few months of strong job growth.

David Dayen, writing at FireDogLake:

It could be that GDP data is just wrong, and will get reassessed upwards. That’s the optimistic scenario. Or it could be due to slower productivity growth, meaning that businesses must hire more workers to perform the same amount of tasks. Christina Romer believes that businesses “overfired” during the low points of the economy, and are now compensating by hiring to satisfy current demand (this may partly explain her prediction back in 2009 that unemployment would top out around 8%, also based on Okun’s Law and GDP projections at the time). Jared Bernstein says that trend growth is actually around 1-2% now, not 2.5%, and so Okun’s Law is actually working.

These opinions may explain the discrepancy, but they also portend bad signs for the economy going forward. Because with either explanation, it would mean that job growth will soon stall out, either as businesses finish rebalancing to meet demand, or as the labor force returns to normal growth. 

A lot of people will read this and go, ‘ah-ha, this means the Obama administration is cooking the books on the unemployment figures!’ I’m not sure it’s quite so simple; I think they were always an imprecise measurement – they’re essentially monthly little mini-census surveys of employers and random workers – that have grown less precise as the economy changed. How many Americans are getting paid cash under the table? How do you count freelancers in a slow period?

David Stockman wrote recently, “I don’t particularly believe in tin foil hats, but all of these mainstream economists treat the BLS and BEA data like it’s holy writ—when it’s evident that the reports are so massaged, estimated, deemed, revised, re-bench marked and seasonally adjusted that any month-to-month change has a decent chance of being noise. What deep secret might they be hiding? … the mainstream narrative never gets to the trend. In this case,  the plain fact is that we are warehousing a larger and larger population of adults who are one way or another living off transfer payments, relatives, sub-prime credit, and the black market. 

For amusement, Stockman found a fascinating example of the numbers seeming… a little too stable, year by year:

Since 2000, the January job loss against a December payroll of between 130 and 135 million has varied within a tiny range of about 150,000. Other than January 2009 when the economy was being smacked by the post-Lehman melt-down in the financial markets, this means that the unadjusted January payroll count declined within a super-tight range of 2.00% to 2.20% of the December payroll.

Really? Granted the U.S. economy is a regular fellow, but how could there be such astounding uniformity every January, year after year in the raw numbers, as in the following sequence for January 2001 thru January 2012, respectively: 2.16%, 2.19%, 2.05%, 2.03%, 2,03%, 1.96%, 2.03% 2.19%, 2.73% (2009 outlier), 2.20%, 2.18% and 2.02%.

After all, you have weather aberrations, huge fluctuations in year to year economic conditions, the weak, random nature of the establishment survey, the constant fiddling with the birth-death adjustment which is carried in the raw numbers, the Christmas shopping season variation from red hot-to-punk across the years, the timing of the survey week and much more. And the dice always lands on almost exactly a 2.03% change from December. Right.

This is meant to be a long-winded encouragement to you to apply your patented numbers forensic skills to the monthly BLS reports or any of the other market movers. In the last 7 years, for example, the Christmas shopping season has been all over the lot and presumably, retail hiring, too. But the unadjusted retail jobs reduction in January vs. December has not varied by much more than 150,000 from a base count of 15 million.  That’s a 1% variation, notwithstanding the huge shopping season differences they report on bubble vision.

Pretty weird, huh?

Tags: Barack Obama , Economy , Unemployment Rate

Seasonally Adjusted Jobless Numbers Too Good to Be True?


The final Morning Jolt of the week features some hurrahs for Kirsten Powers, a look at political movie-making, and then the big number coming out at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, the unemployment rate:

The Number That Will Be Driving the Day

This morning we’ll get some new unemployment numbers.

At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey looked at the early figures released by other sources:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the official unemployment report for the month of February, but we have two previews this week to use as a gauge.  First, the ADP report predicts a net growth of 216,000 jobs in the private sector, improved from last month’s ADP report and about in line with the official January results from the BLS . . . Last month, ADP’s prediction got close to the official results for job growth.  That’s not an entirely normal event; ADP is frequently off in its predictions based on its payroll-service records.  Gallup has a little better track record, and their latest surveys predict a rise in unemployment . . . I’ll predict that the jobless rate goes up to 8.6%, with 95,000 jobs added in tomorrow’s report.

Over at MSNBC, there’s an assessment that’s more pessimistic than Righties might expect from that network’s site:

On Friday, the Labor Department is expected to report that the economy created more than 200,000 jobs in February with the unemployment rate holding steady at 8.3 percent.

It’s that last number — the portion of the workforce still out of work nearly three years after the recession ended — that remains stubbornly elevated.

“The labor market is still fundamentally weaker than five years ago,” said Craig Dismuke, chief economic strategist at Vining Sparks, a Memphis brokerage firm. “We are still in a big hole.”

Millions of American workers have been stuck in that hole for a long time. Some 43 percent of the 12.8 million unemployed Americans had been out of work for more than 6 months in January, the latest Labor Department data on the long-term unemployed. In all, nearly 24 million people are either out of work or underemployed. Those people aren’t out of work for lack of trying: there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. For every opening, there are four unemployed workers who need a paycheck.

Here’s the eye-catching part:

 The rapid decline in the jobless rate in the past few months has defied expectations; some economists argue that the widely-followed seasonally-adjusted numbers may be too good to be true.

Some suspect the government’s formulas for smoothing out seasonal factors may be inadvertently inflating the numbers. Gallup chief economist Dennis Jacobe figures that, without those seasonal adjustments, the jobless rate has actually been rising for the past three months, hitting 9.1 percent in January.

“We think that the improvement over the last few months dramatically overstates the underlying improvement,” said Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Tilton. “You will not see that rate of improvement going forward.” 

If steady improvement in the unemployment rate can save Obama’s presidency, and a double-dip recession dooms him, what does a level, 8.3 or 8.2 percent unemployment in November mean?

Tags: Barack Obama , Unemployment Rate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Lost City


This is the point a lot of folks are wondering about in today’s otherwise good-looking numbers in the monthly jobs report:

Population estimates for the household survey are developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each year, the Census Bureau updates the estimates to reflect new information and assumptions about the growth of the population during the decade. The change in population reflected in the new estimates results from the introduction of the Census 2010 count as the new population base, adjustments for net international migration, updated vital statistics and other information, and some methodological changes in the estimation process. The vast majority of the population change, however, is due to the change in base population from Census 2000 to Census 2010.

The adjustment increased the estimated size of the civilian noninstitutional population in December by 1,510,000, the civilian labor force by 258,000, employment by 216,000, unemployment by 42,000, and persons not in the labor force by 1,252,000. Although the total unemployment rate was unaffected, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio were each reduced by 0.3 percentage point. This was because the population increase was primarily among persons 55 and older and, to a lesser degree, persons 16 to 24 years of age. Both these age groups have lower levels of labor force participation than the general population.

The Zero Hedge site suggests this is a deliberate revision to make the unemployment rate appear lower than it is:

A month ago, we joked when we said that for Obama to get the unemployment rate to negative by election time, all he has to do is to crush the labor force participation rate to about 55%. Looks like the good folks at the BLS heard us: it appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented record 1.2 million. No, that’s not a typo: 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month! So as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million.

Except that these people weren’t showing up in any other category in the figures of previous months; pretend the BLS discovered a city of 1.5 million people that it had previously overlooked. But that city is probably a college town with a lot of retirees and small children, since only 216,000 of the residents are working and only 42,000 of them are “officially” out of work, meaning actively looking for a job. (Remember my video with my son’s little figures. If you stop looking for work long enough, you’re no longer “officially” unemployed.) The vast majority of this Missing City is made up of people who are “not in the labor force,” and they’re disproportionately women: 297,000 men, 955,000 women.

It is fantastic that the number of Americans working is increasing. But those working Americans are supporting more and more non-working Americans. There are a lot of reasons to leave the labor force, some by choice and generally happy (parenthood, going back to school, affording early retirement) and bad and unhappy ones (despair, unaffordable involuntary early retirement). The number of Americans not in the labor force jumped from 86,001,000 to 88,784,000 with this revision. While they may have been invisible in the previous figures, the bottom line remains the same: a gargantuan number of Americans who could be working aren’t.

As noted before, we usually see the size of the labor force growing consistently under “normal” growth times. Between January 2006 and December 2008, 4.4 million Americans joined the labor force. We’ve been largely stagnant since then: 154,236,000 in January 2009; 154,395,000 last month.

As long as your labor force doesn’t grow, even anemic-to-modest job growth can chip away at the unemployment rate.

Tags: Unemployment , Unemployment Rate

On Those New Jobless Numbers . . .


Break out the party hats! Unemployment is all the way down to 8.5 percent! Whoo-hoo!

Zero Hedge spotlights the steady increase in the number of Americans not in the labor force; he points out, “the labor force itself declined by 50K from 153,937 to 153,887. In fact, persons not in the labor force have increased by 7.5 million since January 2007.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers this chart:

The recession may have ended in mid-2009 according to the economists, but the normal rate of growth in the size of the labor force stopped in 2008 and has yet to return.

Labor Force Size January 2009: 154,236,000.

Labor Force Size December 2011: 153,887,000.

We’re still down 349,000 from the size of the labor force when Obama’s term began. The labor force hit its lowest point during that time in January 2011, at 153,250,000.

Now look at the labor-force-size growth over the preceding three years:

January 2006: 150,214,000.

December 2008: 154,626,000.

That’s 4,412,000 more Americans in the labor force.

Heck of a job, Mr. President. If you drive enough Americans out of the labor force, unemployment will get down to the 4 to 6 percent range it was during the Bush years!

Tags: Unemployment Rate

When Do the Bumps Stop and When Does the Road Resume?


The Wall Street Journal updates us on “Recovery Summer, Part Two”:

Companies are laying off employees at a level not seen in nearly a year, hobbling the job market and intensifying fears about the pace of the economic recovery. Cisco Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and troubled bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. are among those that have recently announced hefty cuts, while recent government numbers underscore how companies have shifted toward cutting jobs. The increase in layoffs is a key reason why the U.S. recorded an average of only 21,500 new jobs over the past two months, far below the level needed to bring down unemployment, which now stands at 9.2%.

Bumps in the road! Bumps in the road!

The Romney campaign continues to hammer Obama on the jobs picture, most recently painting a portrait of the recession in New Hampshire:

Tags: Unemployment Rate

9.9 Percent Unemployment, 99 Vulnerable House Democrats -- I See a Connection!


“The storm is receding and the skies are brightening,” Obama said, days before unemployment increased from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent.

Okay, so our economy actually created a decent number of jobs this month, which is actual good news. Not the “things are getting worse less rapidly than they were before” good news, but good news that represents actual progress.

But discouraged workers – those who had given up looking for work — are getting off the sidelines, and so we’re seeing the inverse of the phenomenon I described in this video. Instead of moving from “unemployed” to “discouraged,” workers who were “discouraged” are looking for work and not finding it, putting them back in the “unemployed” category.

That modest good news of jobs created is overwhelmed by the bigger picture:

The U.S. jobless rate rose to 9.9% in April, the first increase in three months, but the government’s broader measure of unemployment ticked up for the third month in a row, rising 0.2 percentage point to 17.1%.

The comprehensive gauge of labor underutilization, known as the “U-6″ for its data classification by the Labor Department, accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs. Though the rate is still 0.3 percentage point below its high of 17.4% in October, its continuing divergence from the official number (the “U-3″ unemployment measure) indicates the job market has a long way to go before growth in the economy translates into relief for workers.

(On another video, I showcased all the gloomy signs of a lousy economy, even in a community where the official unemployment rate is only a bit above 5 percent.) If the unemployment numbers in September and October are close to today’s 9.9 percent, the number of GOP wins will be on the high end of that list of 99 I assembled.

Tags: 2010 , Unemployment Rate

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