If the economy were a horror movie, Friday would have been that scene at the end of every “Nightmare on Elm Street” where you learn the gool ain’t quite dead and there’s gonna be a sequel to the carnage you just sat through. And Washington’s political and chattering class would be that one naive kid in the audience who didn’t see it coming all along.
Much to the apparent shock of those who’ve been cheerleading the supposed recovery, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that, well, our American dreams are still stalked by recessionary monsters. June, we learned, was a terribly dismal month. We gained a lousy 18,000 jobs, unemployment went up in all categories and wages fell for those jobs that do exist, as did both the average number of hours worked and the number of temp jobs available. Unemployment among African Americans climbed to 16.2 percent.
Meanwhile, another quarter million people dropped out of the workforce altogether, bringing the three-year total of workers who just aren’t in the labor market to nearly four million, according the the Economic Policy Institute; factoring in those people, unemployment is actually 11.4 percent. And if all that’s not enough, BLS added a statistical kicker: May wasn’t so great either, upon closer inspection.
The report comes, fittingly, at the two-year anniversary of the “end” of the recession, which economists declared in June 2009. Turns out D.C.’s lackluster job-creation efforts didn’t kill Freddie after all—a self-evident fact that nonetheless sent shock waves through officialdom. Wall Street freaked out. The White House’s messaging team scrambled. Cynical Republican operatives plotted electoral opportunities.
Most everybody else, though, shrugged. Tallying these numbers at this point feels futile and beside the point. Everybody who’s not invested in the fantasy of a recovery already knows what they add up to: We’re screwed, and the people who could actually end the nightmare on Main Street don’t care to do so. The only remaining question is whether we’ll keep paying for tickets to the same old movie or demand something new.