by Brett Arends
Commentary: America still hemorrhaging jobs
If President Barack Obama and the Democrats want to know why they are still struggling politically this fall, they need look no further than Friday's latest dismal jobs report from the Labor Department.
Forget the 9.6% official unemployment figure; there are 3.3 million fewer jobs than when Obama took office.
The nonfarm payrolls, at 130 million, are down 2.5% from where they were in January 2009. Also the Labor Department has just revealed that under its new revised estimates, the economy lost 366,000 more jobs in the year to March. According to TrimTabs, that means job losses over that period were actually 16.5% higher than previously thought.
No, you can't blame all this on the current administration. There are time lags, and the economic meltdown mostly occurred under the previous administration. In the 12 months before the inauguration, the economy shed 4.4 million jobs. Nonetheless, the data for the past 20 months are a bitter political pill.
Of course, other presidents had rough starts as well. Ronald Reagan lost 2% of U.S. jobs by this stage of his first term, and Bush (the younger) 1.7%. Both were re-elected. But this hole is deeper.
Signs of a turnaround?
Private-sector employment has grown steadily since last December. At 108 million, the number of private-sector jobs is now roughly where it was in July 2009, when the economy was finally struggling -- at least technically -- out of recession. Nonetheless the private-sector jobs count is lower than it was, at 111 million, when the president was just coming into office.
As for recovery summer: They should have called it "end-of-recovery summer." It was in May to June that the economic uptick, which we saw in the early months of the year, turned south.
The economy lost jobs in each of the last four months. We may or may not double-dip, but the economy enters the fall desperately weak. Ominously, in the past two months nearly 1 million more people resorted to part-time work because they couldn't get a full-time job. The total in that camp is now 9.5 million.
The so-called "underemployment" figure, which measures those who want a full-time job but can't find one, just jumped to 17.1%. And what kind of jobs are we creating? Waitressing and bartending rose by 34,000 last month. Manufacturing has been flat since May.
TrimTabs, which tracks real-time jobs data from tax withholdings, says the picture remains weak.
Every recession in the modern economy hits the lower-skilled workers the hardest. But this time around, the slump has been devastating particularly for those who went to college, a constituency that broke for Obama heavily in the 2008 election.
The key figure here is not the official "unemployment" figure, which is largely a fiction, but the one showing the percentage of the population actually with work.
Right now, nearly one in four men over 25 with a college degree lacks a job, any job.
The percentage with work is 77.6% -- down from 78.8% in January of last year. While the figures have ticked up a little in recent months, they remain around the lowest levels by far since records began in the early 1990s. Until recently, the figures were typically above 80%.
This is a recession that has hit the white-collar, college-educated middle class especially hard. You can see that in the polls and among the voters.
By contrast, the percentage of male high-school dropouts with jobs has actually risen since January 2009. Sure, it's only from a dismal 50.5% to 51.5%. But it's still up. Go figure.
Whether the administration didn't do enough for the economy, or simply did the wrong things or a mixture of both, is going to be one for the historians. But it's no surprise the going is tough.
Brett Arends is the author of "Storm Proof Your Money," on how to survive the slump.