President Zero: More on August's Brutal Employment Numbers

Posted: Sep 02, 2011 12:08 PM

Today is a dark day in America.  As Erika notes below, zero net jobs were created in the month of August, and the national unemployment rate has stagnated at a distressingly-high 9.1 percent.  Despite a small uptick in workforce participation reported the Labor Department last month, the American labor force continues to hemorrhage workers, resulting an even higher U-6, or "real," unemployment rate.  The numbers are gruesome, historic, and represent bright red flags for the country's economic outlook:

Employers stopped adding jobs in August, an alarming setback for an economy that has struggled to grow and might be at risk of another recession.  The government also reported that the unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent. It was the weakest jobs report since September 2010.  Stocks tumbled on the news. The Dow Jones industrial average sank more than 190 points in early-morning trading.  Total payrolls were unchanged in August, the first time since 1945 that the government has reported a net job change of zero. Economists warned that the economy can't keep growing indefinitely if hiring remains stalled.

Reuters' Jim Pethokoukis examines the Obama administration's policies thus far and determines that despite Obama's habitual blame shifting, White House policies have empirically exacerbated our economic woes (read the whole thing):

...The Obama stimulus does not deserve credit for what little economic growth we’ve seen. Second, that while a more libertarian approach to the crisis might have had a better result, there was no way such an approach would or could have be enacted. Finally, the preferred Republican solution—a temporary payroll tax cut—might have been beneficial in the short term and wildly problematic in the long term.

Did Obama make it worse? It is certainly the case that he only deepened a long-term trend that threatens American prosperity more than any other. The events of 2008–2009 exposed a truth about the U.S. economy from which we had shielded ourselves: economic growth has been slowing in a worrisome way throughout the decade. The nation’s GDP has averaged 3.3 percent annual growth for the past half century. But from 2001 to 2007—before the recession hit—it averaged only 2.6 percent. Going forward, growth might be even slower due to the aftermath of the financial crisis and the aging of the population. The Congressional Budget Office?, for instance, pegs long-term growth at just 2 percent or so.

...We’re stuck for now with an anemic and debt-laden economy that may muddle along for years. But it didn’t have to be this way. The one thing we can all say for certain is that we could have made it better.

Never fear, though, there's more economic wisdom on the way, in the form of a presidential speech next Wednesday Thursday night.  Oh happy day.  Is it any wonder that Democrats are flailing, desperately trying to cast Republicans as a pack of foaming-at-the-mouth, wild-eyed religious zealots?  They're hellbent on discussing anything but the bread-and-butter issues on which their big government policies have failed the American people so comprehensively and spectacularly.  Go ahead, lefties: Try to make this election into a religious war.  Wave your banners of ugly, anti-Christian bigotry (yes, I said bigotry).  I suspect expressing sneering contempt for, say, the knuckle-dragging evangelical imbeciles who support Rick Perry will draw smug applause in certain virulently irreligious, astonishingly intolerant precincts, but it will fail as an electoral strategy.  Americans are less interested in Republicans' personal religious beliefs than they are in Republicans' economic plans.  How old is earth, Gov. Perry?  I don't know, but have I mentioned job growth in Texas?