This means that jobs we gained were still not quite enough to keep pace with population growth. With nearly 14 million workers laid-off, we have a lot of ground to make up.
The overall unemployment rate dropped, mercifully, by a tenth of a point. We’re now at 9.1 percent. The reason for that small drop is grim: 193,000 people dropped out of the workforce. They gave up looking. The unemployment rate is not a record of how many people are receiving unemployment benefits. Rather, it comes from a survey in which the government asks a set pool of households questions like how much they’re working, how much they’d like to be working and whether they’re looking for work. If you haven’t looked in the last four weeks, you’re not reflected as unemployed in the headline number. Instead, you’re in the so-called shadow unemployment rate, an official number now at 16.1 percent.
House Speaker John Boehner again today referred the public to Republicans’ 10-page, make-things-better-for-corporations plan for creating jobs. He also reminded the public that the federal stimulus program failed to keep unemployment below 8 percent, which is true and which is a matter of politics. In real terms, this recession is not like the others. It’s like nothing we’ve seen since World War II. The 2009 stimulus program is credited with creating or saving as many as 3.3 million jobs. The government also intervened in the auto industry; yesterday GM recorded its sixth straight profitable quarter.
Now government needs to take the lead again, Cornell economist Robert Frank told us last night, with a stimulus program to rebuild America, but politicians are standing in the way. “People shouldn’t get a free pass just by being the road block,” he said. “People should continue to point out that we could be doing something about this, and the road blocks had better get out of the way.”