Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 4, 2012
I wanted to add to John’s fine summary of today’s jobs report.
It really is a very ugly set of data.
It’s not simply that unemployment has been above 8 percent for a record 39 months, which is bad enough. While news stories report that 115,000 new jobs were added in April, the true picture is much worse. More than 340,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force last month. The total employment level for April fell169,000. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, who is hardly a conservative and has been quite sympathetic to President Obama, admits that unemployment “went down for the wrong reason: people dropping out of the labor force.”
He’s quite right. The labor force participation rate (64.3 percent) reached its lowest level in more than 30 years, while the employment-population ratio (58.4 percent) is lower still.
According to Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, if labor force participation had stayed the same in April as it was in March, the unemployment rate would have risen by three-tenths of a percent (to 8.4 percent). And if the labor force participation rate today was what it was when Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be roughly 11 percent. The real unemployment rate, including those who are working part-time due to economic reasons, now clocks in at nearly 15 percent (14.5).