Steady Abandonment of Work

If you follow the mainstream press, you can’t help but notice the headlines this weekend spinning our current languid business climate as “steady economic growth.” 

The statistic of the hour is the Labor Department’s report that 157,000 domestic jobs were created in January, with the uptick in the official U3 unemployment rate from 7.8 to 7.9 percent (red line above) explained away as eager workers rejoining the improving job market. 

But what about the recent Commerce Department report that gross domestic product contracted in the last quarter of 2012, for the first GDP loss since Q1 2009?

Not to worry, things are looking so strong that President Obama has decided to disband his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Press secretary Jay Carney, defending the president’s decision on Thursday:

Q But isn’t it also, Jay, a little ironic to say, in the context of the economy having contracted, that the Jobs Council was a success?

MR. CARNEY: We have had sustained economic growth now for three years. We have had 54 months 34 months, I believe it is, of job creation; 2 million jobs in the last year alone.* We have a lot of work to do. But if the comparison — and I encourage it, those who are inclined, to go back and look at the history of the policies supported by the critics and what they resulted in compared to the policies pushed by this President when it comes to job growth and broader economic growth. The comparison does not favor the critics, I think it’s fair to say.

Well let’s look at “the history of the policies supported by the critics.” The chart above, produced by John Williams, proprietor of the Shadow Government Statistics website, tells the tale. The headline U3 unemployment number measures active job-seekers, while U6 includes short-term discouraged and marginally-attached workers. For Williams’s proprietary statistic (blue line), he adds back long-term discouraged workers dropped from the official labor statistics.

The ShadowStats line depicts the economy most of us encounter in our day-to-day lives. Since President Obama took office, attractive employment opportunities have steadily dwindled in number, leading to a steadily growing number of citizens abandoning the labor force. This is why the job market feels so grim, despite all of officialdom and the mainstream media chorus arguing the contrary.

Consider that all this has been accomplished with just $6 trillion in deficit spending over the first Obama term. Just think of how great things are going to look another $6 or $7 trillion down the road.