Friday, Dec. 7 -- Now that the campaign season is over, even the rosiest, most spin-focused optimist on the planet couldn't - and wouldn't - paint a pretty picture of the U.S. economy. That said, the newly released November Jobs Report from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) looks better than it has in recent months.
Parts of it anyway. Like the part about unemployment dropping to 7.7%, the lowest it has been since December of 2008. 146,000 new jobs is nothing to sneeze at either.
Hurricane Sandy apparently had little effect on the job market, according to the BLS, and we can probably expect some sort of a bump in retail for December based on the influx of seasonal workers for the holidays (we'll get those numbers in January of 2013).
The problem, as numerous economists and employment trend watchers will tell you, is that the recovery isn't happening quickly enough. Part of the reason that the unemployment rate is dropping is not because tons of Americans are getting new jobs, but because they have left the labor force, i.e. have become discouraged and quit looking for jobs.
Writing in the Huffington Post, UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich puts the number of discouraged labor force exit-ers at 350,000.
"The percent of the working-age population in jobs continues to drop -- now at 63.6 percent, almost the lowest in 30 years. Meanwhile, the average workweek is stuck at 34.4 hours," writes Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. "The reason the economy is still under-performing is demand is inadequate. Businesses won't create more jobs without enough customers. But consumers can't and won't spend because they don't have the money."
"Jobs must come first," he concludes. "Job creation must be our first priority."
The number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more out of work) - whose ranks we see steadily at our JVS WorkSource Centers -remain steady throughout the country:4.8 million in November, accounting for 40.1 percent of the total unemployed.
More from the BLS news release: "The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 63.6 percent in November, offsetting an increase of the same amount in October. Total employment was about unchanged in November, following a combined increase of 1.3 million over the prior 2 months. The employment-population ratio, at 58.7 percent, changed little in November."
"The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 8.2 million in November, was little changed over the month. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
"In November, 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
"Among the marginally attached, there were 979,000 discouraged workers in November, little changed from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.
"The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in November had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities."