The economic website www.zerohedge.com has a running not-so-funny joke. The laugh (on us) is that President Obama will be able to get the unemployment rate down to 0 percent by November if the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps ignoring those who drop out of the work force each month.
A serious look behind the January jobs data is troubling. At first glance, everything is roses. The 243,000 jobs "created" exceeded all economic predictions. The most optimistic Wall Street analysis estimated that 120,000 jobs would be added. Accordingly, the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent — a bigger decline than anticipated.
But in January, even though the unemployment rate dropped from December's 8.9 percent, 1.2 million people stopped looking for a job; the aggregate of those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million. Translated, this means that the civilian labor force fell to 63.7 percent, a 30-year high. For the Obama administration to arrive at the coveted 0 percent, the BLS would have to continue to "crush" (as Zero Hedge describes it) the labor participation number to 55 percent, something the agency seems determined to do. Not including the unfortunate 1.2 million who abandoned the job search among the unemployed is like you not including your mortgage payment in your debt obligations.
There's also the significant matter of what types of jobs were "created" in January. Growth in low-paying positions like hospitality and retail, where wages average between $9 and $15 an hour, far outpaced higher-paying jobs for which the national average is nearly $23. Neither type is likely to contribute to family medical coverage.
Not only has new job creation not kept up with population growth over the last several months, but the U.S. population has been inflated by the federal government's policy of inviting about 1 million legal immigrants annually and issuing work permits to them. Today, there are several competing bills on Capitol Hill that would significantly increase the numbers of non-immigrant workers who arrive on H-1B visas or, worse yet, eliminate the existing cap.
A mere two weeks after the Department of Labor issued its rigged statistics, a new Gallup survey more accurately pegged the U.S. unemployment rate in mid-February at 9 percent. The Gallup mid-month rate normally reflects what the government will officially report on the first Friday of each following month.
The survey also found that underemployment, the so called U-6 rate that includes unemployed and those working part-time because no full-time jobs are available, rose to 19 percent, an increase from January's 18.7 level.
In what could be interpreted as a slap at the Obama administration's economic duplicity, Gallup summarized: "Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures show a sharp deterioration in job market conditions since mid-January."
Adding to the painfully high unemployment rates, commodity prices — especially fuel — have increased dramatically, which puts further downward pressure on the economy.
The Gallup report's only inconsistency is its prediction that it's "premature" to speculate that the economy would not be a factor in the November election. That's wrong. The economy and Obama's mismanagement of it are the first, second and third topics on the Republican candidates' talking points.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.