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Unemployment Rate Drops to Five Year Low; Or Did It?

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 9, 2013

The United States Labor Department announced some rosy unemployment numbers indicating that the economy added 200,000 jobs in November with the official unemployment rate dropping to a five-year low of 7%.  The New York Times hailed the figures in an article by Nelson Schwartz titledLowest Jobless Rate in 5 Years Raises Odds of a Fed Move”.  Nelson touts these positive figures stating early in his article:

  • “After years of frustrating fits and starts in the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, the United States economy finally appears to be generating jobs at a healthier, more sustainable pace that many analysts now think will continue into 2014.  The official unemployment rate fell in November to its lowest level since 2008.”
  • The 7 percent unemployment rate last month — down from its most recent peak of 10 percent in October 2009 — is the best reading since President Obama took office, providing one bright spot for a White House beleaguered on many other fronts.  The unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in December 2008, the month before Mr. Obama was inaugurated.

It is not until halfway through the article that Schwartz raised some concerns about the current economic picture when he says: “For people with less than a high school diploma, for example, the jobless rate last month stood at 10.8 percent. For African-Americans, it was 12.5 percent, or nearly twice what it was for whites.”  In addition, Nelson adds: “No improvement was seen in the fate of the long-term unemployed, either, with the ranks of people who have been seeking jobs for more than 27 weeks actually rising slightly in November to 4.06 million.”

Kyle Becker of kylenbecker.com this week posted a graph, included below, that pictorially explains what Schwartz and New York Times just don’t get.  The economy’s recovery is spotty at best offer little benefit to the lower income brackets and middle class.

Shrinking Work Forse

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