Economy is sicker now than in 2009

by karlhenk

Niles, Ohio — Once a month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tests the vitals of America’s economy.

The most important number is the employment figures — the blood pressure, if you will — that acts as the barometer. If the numbers are positive, they are generally met with a renewed sigh of relief, because for so long the economy has gone up, down, left and right, but never remained consistent.

While positivity is associated with advancement, in this metaphor, it’s more associated with a disease. America continues to test positive for a deplorable economy.

According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, if the current 90,000-new-jobs-a-month pace continues, “the labor market will never start putting the backlog of nearly 14 million unemployed workers back to work.”

It’s a sickening thought.

Consider this question: are we better off now than we were two years ago, at the trough of the recession?

Most Americans say “no,” but the numbers say “yes.”

The national unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.1 percent; the rate in October 2011 was 9.0 percent.

Better, right?

Wrong.

While America has popped painkillers, masking the side effects of the disease, the disease itself has only gotten worse.

According to EPI, during “the last two years, the labor force participation rate dropped from 65.1 percent … to 64.2 percent.” That small percentage decrease represents about 2.3 million workers.

Simply put, if those 2.3 million workers remained in the workforce and today were counted as “unemployed,” the nation’s unemployment rate would be 10.4 percent, higher than two years ago.

America's population-to-employment ratio, the share of the working-age population that has a job, is worse than in 2009, the trough of the recession.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that by this time next year, the unemployment will continue to fall and reach 8.5 percent, well off President Barack Obama’s 2008 proclamation that under his watch, and with help from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the unemployment rate wouldn’t rise above 8 percent.

It’s unlikely that Obama, after nearly three years in office, can flip the switch.

The question now, one year from the 2012 election, is this: will Americans decide to give Obama more time to heal the economy (presumably with his national health care plan), or will they call in a different doctor with a whole new medical diagnosis?

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