"Indeed, the current situation is stark. When people say there are no jobs out there, it's true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the start of the recession in December 2007, the ratio of job seekers to job openings was 1.5 to 1. Now six unemployed workers chase every available job. It's a brutal game of musical chairs in which a great many people lose and spiral downward economically with disastrous consequences, not only for themselves and their families, but also for communities that were once productive and prosperous.
The Obama Administration and economists hailed the dip in July unemployment to 9.4% from the 9.5% level in June as an indication that the economy is beginning to recover. But the drop in unemployment is deceptive. Employers shed another 155,000 jobs in July. And the unemployment rate would have gone up, possibly to 9.7%, if the 400,000 Americans who had previously been searching for a job (but became so discouraged they stopped) had continued to seek employment in July. Economists expect the job picture to remain bleak well into 2010.
The standard unemployment number excludes both those who have given up looking for a job and those who have taken part-time jobs but want full-time work. Include them and the number jumps to 20% or higher in states such as Michigan, California, Rhode Island and Oregon, with Tennessee, Nevada and other states in the high teens.
Why isn't the $787 billion stimulus bill helping unemployment? It was never designed to be a jobs program. Instead it is an ambitious policy prescription to restart — and redirect — the economy in new directions over the next three years. Stimulus spending is not a fast-infusion jobs program, nor is it always targeted toward the hardest-hit states. For example, stimulus road-building largely bypasses large metropolitan regions where antiquated infrastructure snarls traffic to focus on rural areas and smaller states.