The official Unemployment Rate number dropped to 8.5%. But sadly, this number increasingly does not reflect the reality of the economic situation in the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also measures the number of people in the US who are employed- it's called the Labor Force Participation Rate. Since 1980, on average only 65.8% of the number of people available to work have in fact been producing goods and services. There were more people being productive, tax-paying citizens in the past (we were above this average from 1988 until 2008), but since 2008, something changed, and we have been hopelessly pulling down the average. There was a brief rise in the number of people employed in 2009, but since then things have mysteriously gotten worse and the expected recovery has not materialized. Today, only 64% of people are employed. See the graph of these numbers here.
Another number that I found useful was generated by Tyler Durden on the blog Zero Hedge. Dunden figured out that since 1980, the average number of people who are employed in the American work force is only about 65.8%. When this number is applied to the participation rate of the workforce, you get a better number of the 'implied' labor force that is available in the United States. Out of this population, the unemployment rate is 11.4%, which is essentially what it has been since early 2009. Go ahead and bounce over to this website and look at the data there, because it is very interesting.
With this additional information, let me venture a couple personal thoughts. First, the unemployment has to recover at some point and the US has to emerge (however slowly) from this recession- it is not surprising then that the unemployment rate is coming down- it is surprising instead that it has taken so long and is recovering so slowly. Second, the unemployment rate generated by the government increasingly does not reflect the reality of the situation- much like the economic numbers generated by the Soviets, these numbers are more political propaganda numbers and thus are increasingly more symbols than useful numbers. Third, the number of people employed and being productive tax-paying citizens is not increasing, in spite of the fact that my children and grandchildren have given away their future (in massive amounts of debt) and that the foundations of our economic system have been stripped (the bankrupting of Social Security and Medicare and pension programs)- this means that all of those policies were bad policies that at great cost did not achieve desired results and those who designed and wrote and passed those policies should lose their jobs.
I'm happy that the unemployment number has gone down, but I'd be more happy if more people had jobs, could pay their bills, and could pay their taxes, and all of this was done without artificial stimulation or inflation by government policies.
Via Doug Ross.