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The U.S. economy added a sickly 115,000 jobs in April, but as discouraged workers continued to leave the labor force, the benchmark unemployment rate nudged down from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent.

The more important number, the size of the potential labor force that is not employed, remained at a crushing 14.5 percent. Economists are alarmed not only at the puny jobs number in April but at the fact that the difference between the two figures, 6.4 percent, stands near an all-time high.

If Obama is forced to make a broader policy prescription it will be a very bad. He can hardly call for another deficit-fueled stimulus given the low estimation in which voters hold his 2009 one. But neither can he move right and suddenly embrace tax cuts and austerity.

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