UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong calls “nuh-uh” on the Obama administration’s wan attempt to put the best face on Friday’s dispiriting employment report, pointing to the “absolute and total complete disaster” lurking not far beneath the “flat-lining employment-to-population ratio.”
Jason Furman, the White House chief economist, underscored that the private sector has added jobs for 46 consecutive months, though he could hardly avoid noting that the December figure was a meager gain of 74,000 (attributed by most to that all-purpose winter rascal, the weather). The overall unemployment rate is still “trending down,” Furman said, to 6.7% in December, the lowest since October 2008.
Furman acknowledged, as how could he not, that the sour note in the statistics is the rate of long-term unemployed (those jobless for more than six months), which is tenaciously high.
DeLong’s gloss focuses on a trend unmentioned by Furman, which is that the reason for the decline in the unemployment rate is that “labor force participation is falling.” If those dropping out of the labor force fail to return once the