Some observers might take solace in the fact that today’s jobs report showed that payrolls registered a slight increase (+4,000) during November 2009 and that the fourth quarter average decline was “only” 69,000 versus the monstrous 691,000 per month loss during the first quarter. Certainly these measures show that conditions are nowhere near as bad as they were during those darkest days of the Great Recession; however, what they don’t indicate is the job market is making that much-needed leap from stability to improvement.
In fact, some of the report’s details still reflect what can only be considered a total absence of job creation. For example, the median length of an unemployment spell is now 20.5 weeks and nearly 40 percent of all unemployment workers have been out of a job for 27 weeks or longer. A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who work part-time for economic reasons (they’d rather be full-time) in addition to the unemployed, climbed to 17.3 percent despite the mass exodus of 661,000 people from the labor force. In a sense, what these statistics reveal is just how far the labor market has to go before recouping the vast number of jobs lost over the past two years.