Claude Cartaginese

With Good News Like This, Who Needs Bad News?

Posted on August 12 2009 12:30 am
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“This morning, we received additional signs that the worst may be behind us. Though we lost 247,000 jobs in July, that was nearly 200,000 fewer jobs lost than in June, and far fewer than the nearly 700,000 jobs a month that we were losing at the beginning of the year. Today we’re pointed in the right direction. We’re losing jobs at less than half the rate we were when I took office. We’ve pulled the financial system back from the brink, and a rising market is restoring value to those 401(k)s that are the foundation of a secure retirement.”—President Barack Obama

The remarkably self-serving spin that Barack Obama (a master of self-promotion if ever there was one) has put on the latest report on unemployment statistics has left even Amy Goodman and the Marxists over at Democracy Now! scratching their heads. The bold claims made by the President — that there is some sort of miraculous economic turnaround occurring because only a quarter of a million people lost their jobs in July — just don’t align with the facts.

If the nation’s unemployment rate did fall slightly last month (from 9.5% to 9.4%), Goodman reported, it was only because “so many [discouraged] people dropped out of the hunt for work, ceasing to be considered unemployed by the government.” Goodman noted that economists have calculated that if you factor in those people who’ve dropped out of the hunt for work altogether, the real unemployment rate is actually 16.3%.

Goodman’s report pretty much ended there, but there’s a lot more she could have said about the abysmal state of the economy and how the President’s economic stimulus recovery plan has been, for the most part, an unmitigated failure.

For example:

• No mention was made of the number of workers considered underemployed, i.e., those who have been made involuntary part-time; furloughed workers; and those who are now only marginally attached to a company or industry. Those numbers are rising at a truly staggering rate, yet those categories aren’t counted in the overall unemployment figures. In the month of July, for example, there were 796,000 discouraged workers (up by 355,000 over the past 12 months) that were not counted in the report.

Things are no better if you look at specific industries:

•Employment in construction declined by 76,000 in July.

•Manufacturing employment fell by 52,000 in July and has declined by 2 million since the recession began.

•Retail trade employment declined by 44,000 in July, up from a previous average decline of 27,000 per month over the prior 3 months.

Things are so bleak that the Obama administration and Congress are considering acting once again to extend unemployment benefits, as there is little hope that those currently unemployed will find jobs within the traditional 26-week benefit period. Congress has already acted three times to extend benefits (it’s now 79 weeks in California and other states with higher-than-average unemployment rates).

The President can spin this report anyway he wants to, but the numbers speak for themselves.

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