Last Friday, as we headed off to Labor Day picnics and other end of summer gatherings, it was ironic to consider the latest employment figures. On a holiday weekend devoted to the American worker, the Bureau of Labor Statistics under the U.S. Department of Labor announced zero job growth during the month of August 2011.
While the unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent, it is very clear that private sector job creation, long sputtering, has officially stopped altogether. June 2011 witnessed just 31,000 additions to employer payrolls, with July faring slightly better at 71,000. However none of these numbers are worth excitement as the economy requires almost 130,000 new jobs per month just to keep up with population growth, and far more than that if we are to recover the roughly 8 million jobs that have been lost since the Great Recession began in 2007.
President Obama, feeling the heat, is prepared to address the nation and a joint session of Congress this Thursday night. A growing chorus of policy experts, including The New York Times’ Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, believe the national focus has been mistakenly placed on budget deficits rather than job creation.
To underscore that point, consider that during the month of August, the apex of the debt ceiling negotiations, industries like health care added new positions, only to have those gains offset by the layoffs of state workers, including educators. Cash-strapped state governments continue to shed employees at a rate that has not been exceeded by private sector job creation.
While the economy has grown, however anemically, since the recession officially ended in June 2009, a large number of struggling families are unable to feel optimism. Underwater mortgages, falling home values, a credit crunch and unstable or absent employment opportunities have contributed to consistently low scores on the CredAbility Consumer Distress Index.
Last Friday’s dismal report was the first time since 1945 that the government recorded a net jobs number of zero. For the sake of American families, let’s hope policy makers are determined to make it the last.