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OK, so you might have noticed a few headlines the last few days talking about how the economy is getting better, unemployment is dropping, and we’re all going to win Powerball tonight and retire tomorrow with our sparkly ponies.
Yeah, I ain’t holding my breath on any of those things either.
Yes, the economy is getting a little better. Slightly. But not to a level to make an appreciable difference to the millions of long term un and underemployed. As David Dayen noted at FDL News on Friday:
The reason that the unemployment rate was able to tick down, however, is that the labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 64.0%. This low participation rate means that, even with the economy growing and the job market improving, a fair number of able-bodied workers have not rejoined the labor force. When they do, and when the labor force participation rate increases, that will put upward pressure on that topline unemployment rate. And unless everyone came into found money, that’s fated to happen. The employment-population ratio also remained unchanged in December (58.5%), despite the job additions. The average workweek and average pay went up very slightly over the month.
Even if those folks who have given up and left the workforce were to stay away and not return, it will still take years for the current problems to right themselves.
Let’s pretend that we stay on the current level of seeing the official unemployment rate drop .2% each month. At the end of 2012, the unemployment rate would be at 6.1%, a number that sounds much better than it has been. But that number would still not be addressing the millions of folks working part time (probably minimum wage) jobs who want full time employment. Nor does it account for all the folks forced into being “independent contractors” or all the college grads from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 still trying to get their first position in their fields.