The typical American judges the state of the economy by the quality of the labor market. If jobs are scarce and wages are flat or falling, decent increases in the gross domestic product or the stock market are almost irrelevant. Aware of this point, President Obama convened yet another White House meeting on jobs earlier this week. After all, his own job is on the line.
To be sure, the administration has some good news to report. The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics news release on the employment situation reported an unemployment rate of 8.5%, down from the previous month and considerably below the peak rate of 10.1% in October 2009. Jobs grew by 200,000 between November and December, which is enough to reduce the unemployment rate, albeit slowly.
Initial unemployment claims fell to 352,000 last week. New claims have been in the high 300,000s-range—not good, but way down from a peak of 618,000, the average during the second quarter of 2009.