Today, the Department of Labor issued the final employment report of 2011. The Department reported that 200,000 net new jobs were created in December and the unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 8.5 percent. This is welcome news and better than the past few reports, but the fact remains that our economy is not creating a sufficient number of new jobs to meaningfully drive down unemployment.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE HAS AVERAGED 9.4 PERCENT, 600,000 JOBS LOST SINCE THE ‘STIMULUS’ WAS ENACTED
Even with the 200,000 net new jobs created in December, the unemployment rate averaged nine percent in 2011 and has averaged 9.4 percent since the ‘stimulus’ spending bill was enacted – in fact, it has been higher than 8 percent for nearly three years. And while private sector employers created new jobs on net during the last 15 months despite the uncertainty and constraints imposed by the Obama administration, the economy has lost more than 600,000 jobs since the ‘stimulus’ became law.
An unfortunate but seemingly longstanding trend is that some workers are struggling more than others in our economy. The African American unemployment rate closed out 2011 at 15.8 percent – unchanged from a year earlier – and unemployment among those of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity was also essentially unchanged at 11 percent from one year earlier even though unemployment among white workers fell a full percentage point to 7.5 percent.
Another report by the Department of Labor issued this week painted a similarly bleak picture in towns and cities across the nation. In the 12 months prior to November 2011, 133 of 372 metropolitan areas posted flat or declining employment.
Today’s report also suggests December’s positive jobs numbers may not represent a lasting shift in the right direction. As the Department noted, “seasonal hiring was particularly strong in December” for the courier and messenger sector which added 42,000 of the new jobs tallied in the report. With seasonal hiring so strong in an industry sector which comprised 20 percent of the total net private sector jobs created in December, this better-than-usual report should be viewed through a tempered lens.
WAGES STAGNANT AS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION POLICIES DRIVE UP FAMILIES’ COST OF LIVING
Even those fortunate enough to find work in President Obama’s economy continue to struggle. The Department reports that average hourly earnings for middle class workers increased by only 2.1 percent in 2011. For an average middle class worker, the Department notes, that translated into a $14.29 increase in weekly earnings today compared to a year earlier.
While any increase in earnings is a welcome relief to the family budget, it comes at a time when the Obama administration’s policies are driving up costs for working families faster than middle class wages are rising. The president has actively blocked job-creating energy production and imposed a moratorium placing some of the most productive energy resources off limits. Additionally, Washington Democrats have continued to push a failed approach to health care which is already driving up costs.
In a separate report on consumer prices issued last month, the Department inventoried the change in prices of a variety of goods and services consumed by families. From November 2010 to November 2011, prices of the entire basket of goods and services measured in the report increased by 3.4 percent, food costs increased 4.6 percent, energy costs increased 12.4 percent, the cost of clothing increased 4.8 percent, and the cost of medical care increased by 3.5 percent.
As working families are forced to endure costs for their basic needs which are increasing faster than the growth in average weekly earnings, the strain on family budgets will only increase.
BOTH PARTIES MUST COME TOGETHER & HELP END THE UNCERTAINTY FACING SMALL BUSINESSES, REMOVE GOVERNMENT BARRIERS TO PRIVATE-SECTOR JOB GROWTH
“It’s good news that more Americans found work last month despite a sluggish economy, but both parties must come together and do more to address the ongoing uncertainty that small businesses face,” Speaker Boehner remarked on the jobs report today. In addition to the House passing nearly 30 jobs bills which remain stuck in the Senate, the House passed a full-year extension of the temporary payroll tax reduction along with expensing for new investments made by employers of all sizes. These are areas of common ground which would end some of the uncertainty facing small businesses and help create an environment where robust private-sector job growth is once again the norm. Senate Democrats and the president should work with the House to enact these bipartisan bills now.