The November jobs report released last Friday by the Labor Department seemed a breath of holiday good cheer at just the right time. The White House (in desperate need of anything that resembled "good news") hailed the report as evidence that "the recovery continues to gain traction."
"Has the job market finally hit its stride?" was the rhetorical question that CNN used to lead their coverage of the new numbers. "Hiring continued at a solid pace in November, and the unemployment ratefell to a five-year low…for the right reasons," CNN cheered.
The unemployment rate came in at 7.0 percent and job creation exceeded modest expectations with growth across most sectors. What's not to like?
A more careful read of the Labor Department's report, however, explains that the numbers and ratios were heavily impacted by "the return to work of federal employees who were furloughed in October due to the partial government shutdown."
The report also explained that, "Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.7 percent), adult women (6.2 percent), teenagers (20.8 percent), whites (6.2 percent), blacks (12.5 percent), and Hispanics (8.7 percent) changed little in November," the report says.
Further, the number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more) that has been particularly worrisome during the stubbornly sluggish recovery "was essentially unchanged at 4.1 million in November" and accounted for 37.3 percent of the total number of unemployed, according to the Labor Department.
The Obama Recovery supposedly started in June 2009 – fifty-three months ago – making this by far the slowest and weakest recovery in the modern era. Like most Americans, we've been looking for that time when we turn the corner, too.
But, before the White House and Obama's cheerleaders can claim a legitimate victory over the recession, the economy still needs to return to something close to "normal." Utilizing the Labor Department data, some simple calculations demonstrate that Obama's "New Normal" – as the Washington Central Planners like to call it – is still a far cry from the economy that existed prior to the recession.
The following chart helps do a comparative analysis utilizing key indicators from the Labor Department's statistics.
Three dates are used for reference: