Employment: Just treading water

The unemployment rate is now down to 7.4 percent, the lowest level since 2008. But is that really good news?

We don’t think so. The share of American adults with jobs is still stuck at just 58.7 percent.

Here’s another way to look at it: For every 100 adults, 63 had jobs before the Great Recession; now, only 59 do.

The problem is, we’re adding jobs, yes, but we also are adding people. And since the recession ended in 2009, we’ve added jobs and people at about the same pace.

Another reason the unemployment rate is falling is because it doesn’t actually measure the share of people who are unemployed. It only counts people who are actively seeking work. And since the recession, a growing share of Americans are not even trying to find jobs. Some have given up; others appear to be avoiding the labor market by staying in school or at home.

That, folks, is simply not good for the economy.

By the way, in case you missed the numbers, the Labor Department said non-farm employment rose by 162,000 in July. That 7.4 percent figure is the lowest in more than four years.

Meanwhile, previous months’ job creation numbers were revised lower, bucking a trend in which the counts mainly have been revised upwards.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics now puts May job growth at 176,000, down from the previously reported 195,000, while June’s figure fell to 188,000 from 195,000.

At the same time, long-term unemployment rose, with the average duration of joblessness now at 36.6 weeks.

And wage growth fell: After rising 10 cents an hour last month, average wages fell 2 cents to $23.98 an hour, while the average work week decreased by 0.1 hours to 34.4 hours.

 “The U.S. job market appears to be stuck in the slow lane,” Adam Hersh, economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, wrote in a statement. “Despite the modest gains in this report, we’re still not moving fast enough to repair the unemployment hole or to deliver a pay raise for the majority of workers in America.”

All we can is, ugh!

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