Voters’ old-fashioned common sense about the economy was backed up by the numbers in the February jobs report just released this morning. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs last month. That’s the good news, and it does evidence that the recovery continues, albeit slowly. And this slow-trot recovery is why the unemployment rate remains at 8.3 percent, while the number of long-term unemployed workers remained at 5.4 million, accounting for 42.6 percent of the unemployed.
What’s more, an extraordinarily high number of Americans have dropped out of the work force, either choosing not to work, losing heart and abandoning the hunt for jobs, or accepting disability benefits. Because of the meager recovery, very few potential workers have returned to the job market to find work. With fewer people in the work force, the unemployment rate appears lower than it should as a matter of simple arithmetic. But this artificially low rate does not disguise the fact that talented, experienced, discouraged workers are choosing to sit on the sidelines instead of participating in the economy. In short, though the labor market is improving, it’s nowhere near where it should be given America’s potential.