I would like to believe the U.S. economy is firmly back on track and headed toward renewed prosperity. A slow track, to be sure, but at least things are moving forward. That would be something, at least.
Except the data show a recovery in reverse, headed the wrong way.
1. More jobs were created per month last year than this year (and pitifully few in both years). Since the start of the year, job growth has averaged 139,000 per month vs. an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011. At this year’s pace, it will take 11 years to bring the unemployment rate back down to 5%.
2. Back in 2009, the incoming Obama administration predicted sub-6% unemployment in 2012 if Congress passed the $800 billion stimulus plan. Instead, we’ve had 43 straight months of 8%-plus unemployment. And that high level of sustained joblessness is likely contributing to a deterioration in the U.S. labor force and higher structural unemployment.
3. The labor force participation rate is lower today than at the start of the year, and lower than at the start of 2011. Yes, the economy has created private-sector jobs every month for the past 30 months, since February 2010. But during that span, labor force participation has continued to drop. If the participation rate were the same today as it was in February 2010, when the job market supposedly bottomed, the unemployment rate would be 10.1%.