By MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN - OPINION, September 7, 2012 –
Don’t be fooled by the headline unemployment number of 8.1% announced on Friday. The reason the number dropped to 8.1% from 8.3% in July was not because more jobs were created, but because more people quit looking for work.
The number for August reflects only people who have actively applied for a job in the past four weeks, either by interview or by filling an application form. But when the average period of unemployment is nearly 40 weeks, it is unrealistic to expect everyone who needs a job to keep seeking work consistently for months on end. You don’t have to be lazy to recoil from the heartbreaking futility of knocking, week after week, on closed doors.
Assistant editorial page editor James Freeman on the August jobs report and how it gels with President Obama’s speech last night. Credit: Associated Press
How many people are out of work but not counted as unemployed because they hadn’t sought work in the past four weeks? Eight million. This is the sort of distressing number that turns up when you look beyond the headline number.
Here’s another one: 96,000—that’s how many new jobs were added last month, well short of the anemic 125,000 predicted by analysts, and dramatically less than the (still paltry) 139,000 the economy had been averaging in 2012.
The alarming numbers proliferate the deeper you look: 40.7% of the people counted as unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more—that’s 5.2 million “long-term” unemployed. Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, even though the population since then has grown by 31 million.