26 September 2012
You could almost hear the desperate groans of right-wingers all across this country as the Labor Department released its unemployment figures for August. They were hoping the report would show a rise in unemployment, so they could crow about how President Obama doesn't know how to create jobs (while ignoring their own efforts to obstruct job creation). The Labor Department report showed that the unemployment rate actually dropped two-tenths of a point in August (from 8.3% in July to 8.1% in August -- equaling the lowest unemployment rate in the last year).
But the Democrats shouldn't do too much celebrating. While the rate did drop, the truth is that the unemployment situation in the United States did not really improve in August (or get any worse), and millions of Americans who would love to work full-time still can't find a job. There were only 90,000 new jobs created in August. That's not even enough jobs to cover the number of new workers entering the job market (which is usually considered to be between 125,000 to 150,000).
So why did the rate fall, if not enough new jobs were created to make it fall? The obvious answer is that a whole lot more Americans gave up on their futile efforts to find a job, and did not look for work during the last four weeks . That would drop them from the people considered unemployed (who are counted in the unemployment rate) to the ranks of those considered "marginally attached" to the work force (who are not counted in the unemployment rate). It does not mean they wouldn't love to have a job -- only that they don't know where else to look and are no longer counted. And this is verified by the Labor Department's own numbers. They listed the number of "marginally attached" in July at 2.5 million, and in August at 2.6 million (a jump of 100,000 people or more).
Here are the hard facts about unemployment in the U.S.:
12.5 million -- the number of people listed by the government as unemployed.
2.6 million -- the number of marginally attached people, who would like to have a job but are no longer counted by the government as unemployed.
15.1 million -- the real number of unemployed people (although even this is probably an undercount).
8.0 million -- the number of people working part-time because they can't find a full-time job.
23.1 million -- the number of full-time jobs that are needed in this country.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP