The new national unemployment numbers are out for December and they are not good. Nationally, 85,000 jobs were lost, and underemployment, a more arcane measurement which takes account of discouraged workers exiting the work force and hours cut from the work week stands at 17.3%, up from 17.2% in November, close to an all-time high.
Since the $787 billion stimulus package was passed last February, the economy has lost 2.8 million jobs. At the time, President Obama claimed that the stimulus would hold unemployment under 8% (it peaked at 10.2 in October) and would create or save 3.5 million jobs by December of this year. That would require the creation of 6.3 million jobs in 2010, or he is going to have to call the shortfall “saved” jobs. That is a tough sale even for the man who declared, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” without blushing.
So it seems inescapable that Obama and his allies in Congress either have no idea what they are talking about, or have not told the truth from the outset. Take your choice.
In the meantime, the economy is actually showing signs of turning around, with 2.2% growth in the third quarter of 2009, and 4% in the fourth. Where are the jobs?
As usual during a recession, American business has found a way to operate more efficiently, wringing greater production from fewer work hours. Ordinarily that would set the economy humming again, with a rapid decrease in unemployment.
Instead, we see a growth in the hiring of temporary workers who can be jettisoned quickly, and a reluctance to expand. Employers, especially in small business which is the primary engine of economic growth, have seen a new president and Congress elected which, in the face of a very severe recession, have concentrated on the wasteful spending of impossible sums of borrowed money, while cranking up a health care entitlement which will prove costly beyond anyone’s wildest imagining.
Next, they want to burden every business and family in the nation with huge costs to address environmental problems which most people do not believe in, propounded by academics whose work is funded increasingly by governments madly seeking revenue. (The venality of their work was hilariously illustrated by the recent e-mail exposures.)
Having no idea what it will cost to do business or hire workers in the future, wondering when the inevitable inflation will hit, and how bad it will be, uncertain of credit in competition with the insane expansion of government debt, employers are holding back, the only sensible thing to do.
And America is increasingly waiting for change – in the 2010 elections.