High Unemployment Rates Aren’t Budging

Against the backdrop of possible military action in Syria, the U.S. jobs picture remains bleak

By Imara Jones Sep 06, 2013

Today’s jobs report underscores the weak state of the U.S. economy as the country considers military action abroad. In August the U.S. added 169,000 jobs. That’s below analysts’ expectations. The overall unemployment rate barely declined to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent.

Black and Latino unemployment remained virtually unchanged in depression-like territory at 13 percent and over 9 percent respectively. This minuscule decrease in joblessness registered for all the wrong reasons. 

The bottom line is that millions of people have dropped out of the workforce. The decline in those actively looking for work–officially known as the "labor participation rate"–is masking true unemployment.  The number of people who’ve stopped searching is the highest in almost four decades. As the official unemployment number only measures those "actively" looking for work, the exit of millions from the job force makes the overall jobless situation look better than is actually the case. In fact, if discouraged workers were added to unemployment calculations, then the number of those out of work would be closer to 10 percent. 

Adding to the less than stellar report is that it revised downward the number of official jobs created in June and July. There were 74,000 fewer hirings made during that time frame than were initially reported. Given today’s news–with looming critical deadlines in the next four weeks on the budget, debt, health care, and immigration–those concerned about economic justice can only hope that these issues receive top billing alongside the war resolution that’s currently up for consideration.