Six percent unemployment: A reasonable goal for Romney's first term?

Even if one accepts these generous guestimates, Fehrnstrom’s math if off-kilter. Factoring in population growth and other changes in the work force, the U.S. economy must create as many as 125,000 new jobs every month just to keep even.

And even then, those numbers are not always enough — as the Obama administration was reminded in February when the economy gained 227,000 new non-farm jobs, while the unemployment rate remained static at 8.3 percent. The reason provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for this anomaly is that it meant that unemployed Americans who were previously so discouraged they hadn’t even been looking for a job were motivated to join the workforce.

That sobering explanation suggests that the federal government’s methods for counting the unemployed have been seriously understating the nature of the problem. It also means that if a Romney administration merely were to keep pace with the current unemployment rate, between 6 million and 7 million new jobs would have to be created. Lowering the rate to 6 percent? That will take about 10 million new jobs.