When compiling its monthly unemployment rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts only people who are looking for work. People who say they are no longer seeking employment are subtracted from the overall labor force and that drives the unemployment rate down -- which is what happened last month.
The news sound bites and headlines led with "unemployment rate falls," but the reasons why were often obscured or buried in the fog of shallow nightly news reporting.
Have you noticed how little the network news shows address the unemployment rate and its severe impact on our country, except of course when the monthly numbers come out?
Democratic leaders in Congress rarely bring it up, hoping that the issue will go away by itself.
And then there are the other economic and social indicators that are fueling Obama's latest disapproval numbers.
The national poverty rate increased to 14.3 percent of the nation's population in 2009, compared to 13.2 percent in 2008, and forecasters are predicting that data will show it worsened in 2010. In the South, the rate has risen to nearly 16 percent.
The housing industry, despite all of the government programs Obama has pored money into, still remains in a deep recession. The Federal Reserve's annual report on the economy, in the so-called Beige Book, said this week that "activity in residential real estate and new-home construction remained slow across all (Fed) Districts."
In nine of the 12 Fed Districts, home prices fell or remained in neutral, with a continuing oversupply of houses in the real-estate market that has paralyzed the construction industry. Foreclosures and evictions continue at a high rate.
Meantime, beware of news reports that a booming economy is just around the corner. Remember all those breathless stories of robust Christmas sales in December? It turns out they were weaker than expected. Overall sales looked solid, "but this was not the December many had hoped for," says Amy Noblin, a retail analyst with Weeden & Co.
Before December's unemployment data came out, the payroll-processing firm ADP released a widely promoted report that said businesses added nearly 300,000 jobs. Not even close.
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