Labor Secretary celebrates jobless rate increase by ... trick-or-treating?

How does the Obama administration react to an increase in the jobless rate? Party on, dudes!  Scott MacFarlane of Cox Media tweeted a picture of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ entry into an interview this morning after the October jobs report, dishing out candy and proclaiming that Americans will now get behind Obamanomics in a big way come January:

Well, far be it from me to be the party pooper, but this seems rather inappropriate even without the increase in the jobless rate.  Solis seems to think that this jobs report is objectively fabulous, but it’s only marginally positive at best, as I explained in an earlier Green Room post.  In order to make up the eight million jobs lost in this economy — which we haven’t even begun doing yet — it would take more than 20 years at the rate of jobs growth shown for this year on average.  At the rate of growth in October alone, it would take more than 14 years.

With the increase in the jobless rate?  The celebration looks more like a Chip Diller moment than anything connected to reality.

Here are two charts that show exactly how the chronic unemployment situations looks, both from Solis’ own Bureau of Labor Statistics, put in the context of population size — updated for today’s report.  First, we have the civilian population participation rate, which shows those who are working at all or actively searching for work as a percentage of working age adults in the general population, starting from 2006:

And this chart shows the employment-population ratio, which gives the percentage of working-age adults in the population who are currently employed:

Note that in both cases, we have failed to even get back to the levels at the start of the recovery in June 2009.  We’re bouncing along generational bottoms in employment as related to population size, and we’re not moving in a direction that suggests in any way, shape, or form that our economy and job markets are “healing.”

Jim Pethokoukis calls this news a pathetic New Normal, and scolds anyone celebrating it:

4. In October, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged down by 1 cent to $23.58. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen by 1.6%. Yet inflation is up 2% over the past year. That means worker take-home pay is declining.

5. As economist Doug Holtz-Eakin notes: “Average weekly hours of work declined. Average hourly earnings declined. The average weekly earnings and index of weekly hours showed sharp declines.” Not good.

6.  The shrunken workforce remains shrunken, although the labor force participation rate did nudge up last month, a good sign. But if the labor force participation rate was the same as when President Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 10.6%.

7. If the participation rate had just stayed steady all year, the unemployment rate would be 8.2%. …

Bottom line: Anemic economic growth of around 2% not only puts the U.S. economy at heightened risk of recession, but is also too slow to a) generate enough jobs to quickly close the jobs gap, and b) boost take-home pay. Anyone satisfied with or hyping this report does a great disservice to the America worker.

Instead of offering up the obligatory Chip Diller video, let’s get into the Solis celebratory mindset, shall we?

Update: I swear, I never watch this show:

I’ve fixed it above, and my apologies to Scott. And Seth.

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