The percentage went down to 9.4% for December but is that a good thing? We will have to wait until we get the January numbers to shake out the holiday hiring but overall it is not strong news.
While there was some private sector hiring (yeah), some of the change that drove the rate lower was from an increase in people who gave up looking (boo.) Employment, or unemployment, is calcualted by taking those out of work and comparing it to those looking for work and working–people identifed as in the work force. When you drop out of the workforce, you are no longer part of the 9.4% unemployment figure. You get to be part of the un or underemployed (marginally attached) number which is still around 17%.
Again, mixed bag. The total size of the labor force edged down which is not good. Involuntary part time workers was unchanged, also not great news. And the marginally attached figure rose as 389,000 people became discouraged and stopped looking for work. (yuck!)
So we are at 9.4% but until the labor force starts to grow steadily, as this number declines, we need to be suspicious of the job picture and any premature celebrations. And I would not count on any truly happy news as long as we are staring at this kind of public debt.
The debt is a message to the business community. It says “I am your future tax burden–come give me a hug.” And as long as leviathan remains super sized and growing, the job picture will continue to stagnate. No business is going to invest in more employees or much else with the that kind of threat lingering over their heads unless they know they will need and use them.
We need to make serious long term and permanent cuts to government spending. There should be obvious and measurable declines in the national debt and deficit. And while you are at it, remove some barriers that increase the cost of doing business. At that point, you might start to see some meaningful improvement across the board, that is if adding jobs is something we are serious about.