3.11.12

THE PATIENT IS STILL SICK.

Mortimer Zuckerman, the editor of U. S. News, describes the proper measure of the job market's health.
The key indicator of our employment health, in all the statistics, is what the government calls U-6. This is the number who have applied for work in the past six months and includes people who are involuntary part-time workers—government-speak for those individuals whose jobs have been cut back to two or three days a week.
That rate remains high in part because the 2009 macroeconomic stimulus bill was a dog's breakfast of conflicting objectives, with the predictable consequences.
In short, the president's ill-designed stimulus program was a failure. For all our other national concerns, and the red herrings that typically swim in electoral waters, American voters refuse to be distracted from the No. 1 issue: the economy. And even many of those who have jobs are hurting, because annual wage increases have dropped to an average of 1.6%, the lowest in the past 30 years. Adjusting for inflation, wages are contracting.

The best single indicator of how confident workers are about their jobs is reflected in how they cling to them. The so-called quit rate has sagged to the lowest in years.

Older Americans can't afford to quit. Ironically, since the recession began, employment in the age group of 55 and older is up 3.9 million, even as total employment is down by five million. These citizens hope to retire with dignity, but they feel the need to bolster savings as a salve for the stomach-churning decline in their net worth, 75% of which has come from the fall in the value of their home equity.
Although the most commonly reported unemployment rate remains slightly below 8 percent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders noted the actual rate is closer to 15 percent, paying attention to discouraged workers and underemployed workers. That was in the course of a radio interview in which he recommended that people re-elect Our President.

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