The anemic recovery of the labor market proceeded apace in January, with unemployment ticking down by only a tenth of a point, from 6.7 to 6.6% (10.2 million people.) Job creation sputtered along at little more than half the rate that prevailed in the autumn, with only 113,000 jobs added. That is only just enough to keep up with population-driven growth in the labor force. Taken together with the even weaker job-creation performance in December (a mere 75,000 jobs added) it once again raises doubts about the depth and durability of the recovery that started in June 2009. It is no small irony that the January report, which documents the persistence of historically high (35.8%) levels of unemployment lasting over half a year, was released only a day after a Senate filibuster blocked the approval of extended unemployment insurance payments to the long-term unemployed.
It is well known that that the standard unemployment rate tells only about half the story of the shortage of jobs. Ignored by the official statistics are those who have had to settle for only part time work, and those whose efforts to find work over the previous 12 months have not included explicitly “looking” for work in the past week. Counting these officially uncounted job-seekers would give us an overall unemployment rate of 12.7% (20 million people).