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The jobs report
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* While total (versus net) employment rose by 873,000 jobs in September, a remarkable 67 percent (582,000) of those were part-time positions. Writing in Great Britain's left-leaning Guardian newspaper, business columnist Moira Herbst laments the trend of "more part-time jobs, many of them low-wage, taking the place of solid middle-class careers" and points to a National Employment Law Project study revealing that during the recovery job gains in low-wage occupations have grown three times as fast as those in middle- and higher-wage positions.
* Workforce attrition during the recovery makes the 7.8 percent jobless rate look better than it is. Had not hundreds of thousands of Americans simply given up trying to find a job, says Peter Morici of the University of Maryland, "we'd be at 9.7-9.8 percent unemployment."
* Only 19.3 percent of jobless Americans found employment in September, reports the Labor Department--a smaller percentage than during any one-month period of the recessions that began in 1990 or 2001. Meanwhile, according to a Wall Street Journal news story, 40 percent of the unemployed, or 4.8 million people, have been out of work more than six months. "Unemployed workers," states the Journal, "are now more likely to quit looking than to find a job."
* Even extracting the positives of the September jobs report and other hopeful trends, middle-class wealth has fallen sharply since the recession technically ended in June 2009, which further implicates the quality of jobs being created. "Real median household income is down [over the last 39 months] $3,040," editorializes the Journal. "The economy is growing but real incomes are still falling"--a conclusion that will surprise few on Main Street.
A BLOW DUCKED
Like the economy, politics is also in large part psychology. After last Wednesday's debate, we opined that Friday's jobs report could be the devastating finishing punch of a one-two combination rained upon President Obama by the week's events. That punch whizzed by the president's head.
Meanwhile, it's well to remember that America's economic woes are wrapped up in a global downturn that preceded the Obama presidency and may outlast it, even if it's eight years. Of course, wise government policies can help a given nation fare better. So can numbers that inspire confidence. Let's hope 7.8 is one of them.