Steven Birn Speaks
Last month’s economic news wasn’t very good; no doubt the Obama administration will brag about the 8.2% unemployment rate.
What they don’t want to talk about is the fact that nearly 88 million adult Americans aren’t in the work force. If someone isn’t in the work force, they aren’t considered “unemployed.” In other words, a record number of people are either retired, a housewife or have simply given up looking for work. It’s the latter that is driving the number higher on a monthly basis. In short, the only reason why the unemployment rate is down is because the government isn’t counting the unemployed who have given up.
The rest of the jobs report isn’t good either. After posting new jobs over 200,000 in February, March saw only 120,000 created. More people gave up looking for work than jobs were created. Economic forecasters had predicted over 200,000 created jobs in March. With the economy creating less jobs than anticipated, many seem to believe that the jobs market is getting weak again. Keep in mind, we would have to have three years of monthly job growth like February just to get back all the jobs lost in the recession. For March to produce just over half of what was predicted is disappointing. Not surprisingly, it’s led to a stock sell off this morning.
The economy is a mess right now and bragging about the unemployment rate is just putting lipstick on a pig. Gallup reports the underemployment rate at 17.8%, meaning more than one out of six Americans is underemployed. (i.e. they want to work fulltime but cannot find 40 hours of work per week) Inflation is hitting big as gas prices have increased substantially to $3.90 a gallon. We can expect to see food and clothing prices increase in the next couple months as a direct result of increased gas prices. Big ticket items might not increase in price but the cost of day to day living is on the rise and has been throughout the Obama administration while wages remain flat.
Poor economic news really gives Romney an opening this fall. If the economy cannot pick up steam, Obama may be in trouble. He can win re-election with economic news like February’s. But he cannot win with months like March. At some point, Romney is going to make the case that the unemployment rate is a farce because it so many are excluded. The underemployed rate and the number of adults no longer in the work force are the better measures of employment. With inflation, low job growth, Romney has an opening. He can ask Americans if they’re better off than they were four years ago. For most at this point the answer is no.
We’re not even getting into Obama’s direct economic contributions such as the failed Stimulus, the massive debt incurred under Obama’s watch, the financial reform package which didn’t reform anything but made the cost of business increase, the effect of various regulations or the uncertainty created by Obamacare. This is Obama’s economy, just like it’s Obama’s budget deficit and Obama’s GSA spending wildly in Las Vegas. Obama has not made conditions good for business. He’s created tax and health care uncertainty. His energy policy is costing us jobs and money. His regulations are costing businesses money, which is seen in job cuts and/or failure to hire more workers. Creating 120,000 jobs isn’t enough when we lost so many millions during the recession. The economy is his, the question is whether Americans are content with mediocrity and whether Romney can take advantage if Americans are not content.
Steven Birn is an attorney and conservative political junkie and blogger. For more news and commentary visit Steven Birn Speaks.