Of Jobs Reports

The latest Jobs report came out last week, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7%.  We haven’t been this well off in years.  Or have we?  James Pethokoukis, writing for AEIDeas, took a closer look.

First, a graph that’s been run in several places before, repeated in Pethokoukis’ article, and here:

You remember this.  It compares President Barack Obama’s…claims…about the unemployment rate under his Recovery Plan vs his projection of unemployment absent his plan with the actual unemployment rate.  The data in the latest Jobs report add to this [emphasis in the original].

The two-tenths drop in the unemployment rate was because people gave up looking for work. The labor force participation rate fell to 63.6% from 63.8% in October.  If it had just held steady since then, the unemployment rate would be back over 8%.  Indeed, if the LFP rate was just where it was in November 2011, the unemployment rate would be 8.3%.  Some 542,000 Americans left the labor force just last month.

If labor force participation was at its January 2009 level, the unemployment rate would be a whopping 10.7%.  Now, some of the drop in the LFP is due to demographic reasons, primarily the aging of the US population.  But even taking that into account would give you a much higher unemployment rate than 7.7%.  If you go by the pre-recession CBO forecast of the 2012 LFP rate, the unemployment rate would be 10.4%.

In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $23.63.  Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen by 1.7%.  Unfortunately, inflation—as measured by the consumer price index—has risen by 2.2% over the past year, meaning average hourly earnings have fallen by 0.5% in real terms.


The number of long-term unemployed remains at a sky-high 40.1%, the same as in August.

As the next graph illustrates.

Yet the Progressives in DC think this is proper.

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