CBS: Chronic unemployment worse than Great Depression

The media began the weekend making unfavorable comparisons between Barack Obama’s economy and the Great Depression, and now they’re beginning the week with another one — and this one’s more accurate.  CBS delved into the jobless numbers and discovered that the percentage of unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months now exceeds that of the 1930s economic collapse:

There is an unfortunate adage for the unemployed: The longer folks are out of a job, the longer it takes them to find a new one.

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports that the chronically unemployed face the hardest road back to recovery, and that while the jobs picture may be improving statistically on a national level, it is not for them. …

About 6.2 million Americans, 45.1 percent of all unemployed workers in this country, have been jobless for more than six months – a higher percentage than during the Great Depression.

There is a hard and fast rule for presidential politics: if your results have to be compared to the Great Depression in order to look good, you’re in serious trouble.  If your results look worse than the Great Depression, you’re in deep trouble.  And if the media starts to report that your results make the Great Depression look better, especially if you’re a Democrat, then you may want to plan for your retirement earlier than expected.

As I noted this weekend, the housing market comparison is accurate but somewhat out of context.  This, however, is not just fairly contextual, it also leaves out a further complicating factor, which is that in the intervening year, another 440,000 people have left the workforce altogether.  Those people have not been counted in the A-12 chart from which this is taken.  When those get added back, the percentage of those out of work 6 months or more will almost certainly rise.  (If they’re all at 27 weeks or longer, the percentage jumps to 47.7%, which is higher than last year’s 46.2%.)

When Barack Obama took office, the US has 5.866 million people who wanted work but who had left the workforce calculations, that number has risen to 6.821 million in May, the highest recorded during Obama’s term of office, and the highest since January 1994.  Adding back the 955,000 people who have left the workforce but want a job since January 2009 would raise the unemployment rate from the current 9.1% to 9.6%, and it would put the number of unemployed (14,869,000) at its highest level since November of last year.

The news is bad for Obama no matter how one slices it.  The worst news is that the media are now making those comparisons explicit.