No doubt President Obama and the Democrats were wishing this morning that the first Friday of the month, when the jobs numbers come out from the Department of Labor, had occurred after the first Tuesday of the month, Election Day. Maybe a positive number like 150,000 jobs created, mostly by the private sector, would have pushed some of the swing voters into the Democratic camp.
Believe me, there's nothing wrong with 150,000 new jobs and it is especially heartening that the private sector created 154,000 of them -- not enough to offset the 8,000-job decline in government hiring. But I can't shake my feelings of discouragement as I write about these numbers month after month in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Let's just look at the top seven numbers in the report. You can click here to see my story online about today's news.
First of all, there's the civilian noninstitutional population. That means everyone of working age that is not in the military or in jail. That number went up by 208,000 to 238.5 million as the general population grew.
Of them, just under two-thirds, or 153.9 million, are in the labor force, meaning they are either working, or trying to work (that's the second number). So, assuming that the newbies want to work at about the same 64.5 percent rate (the third number), you can take two-thirds of 208,000, or about 138,000, rounding down. So you need 138,000 new jobs just to accommodate those 138,000 new people. That's the break-even point. And by the way, the two-thirds participation rate, as the third number is called, is low, a sign that people of working age just don't see enough action in the job market to get involved. Maybe they are staying in school longer, maybe they are on public assistance, maybe they are able to stay home with their young children. Maybe they retired early. Maybe they've just given up.