The Bureau of Labor Statistics September jobs report summarize the labor market before the damage inflicted by the government shutdown. It shows an economy that is treading water, barely creating enough jobs – 148,000 in September – to cover new entrants into the workforce. This is fewer jobs than the average over the last year. Over 20 million people are still in need of full-time work.
The most telling figures are those reflecting participation in the economy. A year ago in September 58.7 percent of the population was employed; 58.6 percent were employed last month. The participation rate of those in the civilian labor force was 63.6 percent a year ago; it is 63.2 percent last month (Table A-1).
This “new normal” is stagnating at an unacceptable level. Mass unemployment continues. Wage stagnation is certain. Families will continue to lose ground.
This represents a massive failure of policy and will. Yes, the U..S. is faring better than most other industrial countries – which are suffering the effects of harsher austerity policies. Yes, the U.S. continues to enjoy constant jobs growth. But this economy is on a road to nowhere. And most Americans are not sharing in the “recovery.” And all of that is before we begin to account for the utterly gratuitous damage inflicted by the government shutdown.
Now Washington is headed into another manufactured crisis around the budget in which the discussion is entirely over how much, what and how fast to cut spending. But the deficit is plummeting, decreasing faster than anytime since the demobilization after World War II. The pace of its decline is impeding any recovery. But for jobs, the reality is “little change.”
Washington needs a debate on how to put people back to work and how to get the economy moving – not one on what dose of austerity to prescribe.