The employment situation was likewise received with glee. Though news of 236,000 new jobs is better than in recent months, a deeper peek into the numbers yields little good news. There are currently 12 million Americans unemployed and looking for a job, a further 2.5 million marginally attached to the labor force and almost 8 million more who cannot find full-time work. Over the past year alone, nearly a million workers have left the labor force. This is far more than retirement would suggest. We should be seeing a steady growth of workers, some 150,000 per month, as young people age into labor markets and older ones retire. Instead, that growth has been under 60,000 per month over the past year. In February alone, more than 280,000 workers who should have been in the labor pool evaporated, while some 236,000 found jobs. Of those new jobs, 444,000 were part time. Yes, you read correctly, according to the Department of Labor, full-time employment dropped by more than 200,000 jobs last month.
The same report showed a small increase in the work week and wage growth of 4 cents per hour. This translates into an annual decline in wages when corrected for inflation.
Despite the delight in the media, the February data tell a wretched story. Wages decline, labor force declines and, at the current rate of job growth, we shall reach full employment sometime early in the next decade. At some point, this economic mirage will be revealed as dry and empty, no matter how pretty a picture the media paints. This is known in the White House, where blame, rightly or wrongly, is sure to be fixed.