Sunday, September 9, 2012
How many people are out of work but not counted as unemployed because they hadn't sought work in the past four weeks?
Eight million. This is the sort of distressing number that turns up when you look beyond the headline number. The alarming numbers proliferate the deeper you look: 40.7% of the people counted as unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more — that's 5.2 million "long-term" unemployed. Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, even though the population since then has grown by 31 million. We are still almost five million payrolls shy of where we were at the end of 2007, when the recession began. Think about that when you hear the Obama administration's talk of an economic recovery. In short, Obama's ill-designed stimulus program was a failure. For all our other national concerns, and the red herrings that typically swim in electoral waters, American voters refuse to be distracted from the No. 1 issue: the economy. And even many of those who have jobs are hurting, because annual wage increases have dropped to an average of 1.6%, the lowest in the past 30 years. Adjusting for inflation, wages are contracting. Layoff announcements have risen from year-ago levels and hiring plans have dropped sharply. People are not going to swallow talk of recovery until hiring is occurring at a pace to bring at least 300,000 more hires per month than the economy has been averaging for the past two years. Furthermore, the jobs that are available are mostly not good ones. More than 40% of the new private-sector jobs are in low-paying categories such as health care, leisure activities, bars and restaurants. We are experiencing, in effect, a modern-day depression. Consider two indicators: First, food stamps: More than 45 million Americans are in the program! An almost incredible record. It's 15% of the population compared with the 7.9% participation from 1970-2000. Food-stamp enrollment has been rising at a rate of 400,000 per month over the past four years. Second, Social Security disability — another record. More than 11 million Americans are collecting federal disability checks. Half of these beneficiaries have signed on since Obama took office more than three years ago.