I was driving into work on Friday when the job numbers were first breathlessly announced on the radio. One-hundred-and-fifty-five-thousand new jobs were expected, however, 69,000 was all the US got for the month of May.
It took me back a bit. I have to admit, my first thought was “here we go again.” What if we face another recession?
I thought about Jim, a 66-year-old truck driver who I met last week in North Carolina. He was walking out of an employment center after spending another fruitless day in his three-year search for work. He described his situation as desperate.
I thought about my friends in the construction sector and how fearful the last few years have been for them. It turns out I was in the minority in Washington. It seems everyone else in this town thought about what it would mean for just one job: the US president.
I suppose that is a natural reaction, especially for my network. The job of US president has the ability to directly impact lives across the planet. You don’t have to be a White House correspondent to know, the latest job numbers don’t help the president.
The number that everyone seems to highlight is the unemployment rate, now up to 8.2 per cent. I don’t like to use that number, it doesn’t count the people who have given up looking or can only find part-time work. It seems to me you have to look at all of those people put together to understand what is really happening and that number is 14.8 per cent. That’s high for the US.
The White House tried to point to the positive “it’s still growth”, the Republican challenger could only look at the negative “devastating news”. That’s expected.
The politicians, it seems, now run to the cameras every month when these numbers come out. It is about spin, it is about blame. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quick to point the finger at President Barack Obama, “an indictment of his economic policy.” The President blames the last administration and the Republican controlled House of Representatives for doing nothing. The Republican leadership says “not our fault” and blames all the Democrats in this town.
Meanwhile, no one is talking about or to Jim from North Carolina. No one is talking about making it better beyond what we’ve already heard and no one believes the two parties can work together to actually pass new legislation. It is all about blame and convincing the voters to point the anger at the other side.
Sorry Jim, it seems you’re on your own for the next five months. If it makes you feel any better, in the end you can decide who gets hired or fired. Although after three years of wondering how to find the money to get enough to eat, I don’t think that is going to be much consolation.