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February 03, 2012

Did We Really get Good Economic News Today?

We got what looks like some good news on the economy today.

President Barack Obama Friday seized on an unexpected surge in job creation last month to pressure Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for more than 160 million Americans and keep the economy improving, warning lawmakers, “Don’t muck it up!”

The economy flexed its growing strength with the surprising addition of 243,000 jobs in January, cutting the unemployment rate to its lowest point in nearly three years — to 8.3 from 8.5 percent — and putting some wind in the president’s sails as he heads into his reelection campaign.

But if what of the additional 1.2 million people who have given up looking for work, and so are nut included in the unemployment rate? It is all well and good that there are these new jobs, but given the number of folks who have left the labor force out of despair and hopelessness can we really say that those new jobs have made a dent in the REAL unemployment rate? After all, 87.9 million Americans not even seeking work is not a good thing -- and that is about 28% of all Americans.

And then there are these questions, too.

If the economy is getting better, then why did new home sales in the United States hit a brand new all-time record low during 2011?

If the economy is getting better, then why are there 6 million less jobs in America today than there were before the recession started?

If the economy is getting better, then why is the average duration of unemployment in this country close to an all-time record high?

If the economy is getting better, then why has the number of homeless female veterans more than doubled?

If the economy is getting better, then why has the number of Americans on food stamps increased by 3 million since this time last year and by more than 14 million since Barack Obama entered the White House?

If the economy is getting better, then why has the number of children living in poverty in America risen for four years in a row?

If the economy is getting better, then why is the percentage of Americans living in "extreme poverty" at an all-time high?

If the economy is getting better, then why is the Federal Housing Administration on the verge of a financial collapse?

If the economy is getting better, then why do only 23 percent of American companies plan to hire more employees in 2012?

If the economy is getting better, then why has the number of self-employed Americans fallen by more than 2 million since 2006?

If the economy is getting better, then why did an all-time record low percentage of U.S. teens have a job last summer?

If the economy is getting better, then why does median household income keep declining? Overall, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% since December 2007 once you account for inflation.

If the economy is getting better, then why has the number of Americans living below the poverty line increased by 10 million since 2006?

If the economy is getting better, then why is the average age of a vehicle in America now sitting at an all-time high?

If the economy is getting better, then why are 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida currently sitting vacant?

If the economy is getting better, then why are 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 living with their parents?

If the economy is getting better, then why does the number of "long-term unemployed workers" stay so high? When Barack Obama first took office, the number of "long-term unemployed workers" in the United States was approximately 2.6 million. Today, that number is sitting at 5.6 million.

Yes, we have seen some ephemeral good news about the economy -- but are we really looking at the right things?

UPDATE: Don Surber linked to some additional analysis.

From Zero Hedge:

“In January, the number of Part Time workers rose by 699K, the most ever, from 27,040K to 27,739K, the third highest number in the history of this series. How about Full time jobs? They went from 113,765 to 113,845. An 80K increase. So the epic January number of 141.6 million employed, which rose by 847K at the headline level: only about 10 % of that was full time jobs: surely an indicator of the resurgent US economy… in which employers can’t even afford to give their workers full time employee benefits.”

I am not that pessimistic. From little acorns, oak trees grow. But this also may reflect a reluctance to add full-time staff that gets you in Obamacare trouble. If Obamacare gets the Supreme Court Seal of Approval, look for employees to be replaced by private contractors throughout the USA to avoid an expensive mandate.

That said, Zero Hedge laid out the case in another post for putting the unemployment rate at a more realistic 11.5%. The participation rate has dropped to a 30-year low.

No, those numbers really aren't that rosy. And as one of his commenters points out, the U6 number is at 15.4%.





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Comments on Did We Really get Good Economic News Today?

Great post, Greg.

|| Posted by GW, February 5, 2012 12:39 AM ||
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