This is supposed to be the fifth year of an economic “recovery,” but the jobs numbers continue to badly underperform. In February, U.S. employers added 175,000 workers to their payrolls, but that’s still below the 200,000 to 250,000 a month we need to bring down the real unemployment rate and to keep pace with young people entering the workforce.
But the employment anemia is still plaguing the U.S. economy. The labor force participation rate (63 percent) remains stuck at or near its lowest point since the late 1970s when the Bee Gees were the hottest music group in America. Amazingly, there are more than 2 million FEWER Americans in the labor force today than one year ago. Usually recoveries bring more Americans into the workforce.
Another troubling sign: weekly hours worked dipped by 0.2 hours in February. How much the record snow and cold impacted these numbers is yet undetermined.
The number of long term unemployed (six months or more) also rose by 203,000. Americans who lose their jobs are having a very hard time finding new ones.
Since this recovery began, job growth has maintained an underwhelming pace of half the employment growth of the average recovery. If the number of jobs had just kept pace with the growth of food stamps recipients, we would have at least 2 million more Americans working today. If the economy were where Obama promised it would be when he signed his stimulus bill, we would have at least 3 million more jobs and an unemployment rate of 5 percent.
It’s time for the White House to get serious about an aggressive jobs agenda. Right now it isn’t. Its two big ideas, Obamacare and the minimum wage hike, would erase nearly 3 million more jobs.
A pro-jobs agenda would mean suspending Obamacare, cutting tax rates on businesses, ending regulations that choke off jobs – especially in the energy industry – and bringing down government spending and debt to free up private sector resources. For the near 20 million Americans unemployed, underemployed, or out of the labor force, this is no recovery at all.