Time’s running out for job growth

By Felix Salmon
October 8, 2010
September payrolls report.

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There’s absolutely nothing to get excited about in the September payrolls report. America has substantially fewer jobs than it did a month ago, in what is meant to be a growing economy. Even the uptick in private-sector employment (+64,000) is pretty pathetic: it’s not enough even to keep up with population growth, let alone to make a dent in the unemployment rate, which stays at 9.6%.

Meanwhile, as the school year begins, we have this:

Employment in local government decreased by 76,000 in September with job losses in both education and noneducation.

As states and municipalities around the nation start running out of money, they’re going to fire people; this is only the beginning. And if October is any indication, the job losses in the local government sector are going to be at least as big as the job gains in the private sector. No wonder the number of discouraged workers is up a whopping 71 percent even from the grim days of September 2009:

Among the marginally attached, there were 1.2 million discouraged workers in September, an increase of 503,000 from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

The U.S. does not have the luxury of waiting indefinitely for job growth to resume. Already we’re at the absolute limit: any longer, and most of the unemployed will be long-term unemployed and, to a first approximation, unemployable. This country simply can’t afford an unemployable underclass of the long-term unemployed — not morally, not economically, and not fiscally, either.

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