News In Brief

OP-ED: August jobs report shows Obama blew it

Jill Schlesinger Sep 2, 2011

The August jobs report is out and it was even worse than last month. The Labor Department said the US economy did not add any jobs last month (and the previous two months were revised lower by 58,000), the unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent and 14 million million Americans are still out of work (25 million if you include part-timers who want to be full-time).

That this report comes just before Labor Day weekend is a cruel coincidence. That the report comes days before President Obama delivers a “major” speech about jobs underscores a basic fact: Obama blew it on jobs.

Let’s go back to the video tape on this topic. When Obama took office in January 2009, the U.S. economy lost over 600,000 jobs. That was followed by February and March, when similar numbers were reported. And yet, the Obama administration didn’t seem to grasp the depths of the problem and instead put forth a stimulus package that was too small and not targeted enough on job creation.

Sure, there were some photo-ops, like the December, 2009 jobs summit, where Obama could have outlined these ideas to spur job growth (but he didn’t!!):
• Increase aid to state/local governments, which could stave off further job losses
• Create a 21st century version of the New Deal Works Progress Administration, which would create low wage, but large numbers of public service jobs
• Provide direct incentives to employers via tax credits
• Enact a payroll tax holiday

But the president was unwilling to spend his political capital to put any of these measures into place, when he had the chance to do it — when Democrats were still in control of Congress. Instead, the administration shifted gears and put 100 percent of its attention on health care in 2010.

Fast-forward to earlier this summer (July 8th), when after the rotten June jobs report was released, the President said that there’s a need for bipartisan action to help the private sector and the economy grow. Ha! Doesn’t the call for bipartisanship a month before the debt ceiling fiasco seem quaint now?

In that speech, Obama suggested extending the payroll tax cut; passing pending free trade agreements; and creating an infrastructure bank to help put Americans back to work. He also underscored the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that “instills confidence without shortchanging future growth.” Confidence in Washington DC, huh?

The president is likely to rehash some of these ideas during his speech, which won’t move the needle on jobs. In fact, anything that was really BIG and could actually spur job growth, would add to the nation’s debt load, which is unacceptable to Republicans.
Where does that leave us? Sadly, with the same problem that we know exists: the housing and credit boom seemed like a really fun party at the time…but when you party like a rock star, the ensuing hangover is intense and lengthy. Grab your aspirin, because it’s not going away any time soon.

August Jobs Report:

  • Jobs Created: NONE (Revisions: -58K, July revised to + 85 from +117,000, June revised to +20K from +46,000)
  • Unemployment Rate: 9.1 percent (unchanged from July)
  • Under-Employment Rate (marginally-attached, part-time): 16.2 percent (from 16.1 percent in July)
  • Total Number of Unemployed: 14 million (from 13.9 million)
  • Part-timers (hours cut for economic reasons): 8.8 million (from 8.4 million)
  • Average duration of unemployment: 40.3 weeks (from previous record high of 40.4 in July)
  • Median duration of unemployment: 21.8 weeks (from 21.2 weeks in July)
  • Number of years to return to pre-recession employment (assuming current level of job creation): 4 (late 2014 or early 2015)
  • Total Jobs Lost since beginning of recession in 2007: 6.8 million
  • Long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks and over): 6 million (from 6.2 million in July, representing 42.9 percent of the total unemployed)
  • Average Hourly Earnings: down $0.3 to $23.09 (Over the past year, earnings are up 1.9 percent)
  • Average Workweek: -0.1 to 34.2 hours
  • Government: -17K (tenth consecutive month of job losses. Over 550,000 total government jobs lost since peak in September 2008)

Jill Schlesinger is editor-at-large for CBS/Moneywatch. Listen to her Morning Report interview for more analysis of the August jobs report, and visit her CBS blog for more analysis.

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