Is the recession over yet?

“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” — Will Rogers

Statisticians say the recession ended mid-2009, four and a half years ago. But what do you think? Does it feel like the recession ended or does it feel like we are still in a recession? In a recent poll, 74% said we are still in a recession.

It’s no wonder most people feel that the recession never ended. Employment is miserable. GDP growth is pathetic. Median family income is down for four straight years. Almost 50 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. A record 47 million people are on food stamps. One pundit declared that “More people in the United States are poor, unemployed, underemployed, looking for work, disgusted and quit looking for work, on food stamps, and on disability than anytime in our history.”

But the December jobs report says that unemployment dropped from 7.0% down to 6.7%. Doesn’t that show that the economy is improving? Well, no. Almost all of the reaction, other than from hopelessly partisan hacks, says that the report is bad news. E.g. CNN described it as “weakest job growth in years”, USAToday referred to it as “unexpectedly weak jobs report”. Many reported that there were “only” or “just” 74,000 new jobs, the worst in almost a year. (UPDATE: The January Jobs Report is better but “is another disappointing jobs report”. “Job growth remains weak,” “disappoints again”.)

Not so well known is that jobs have to increase by about 150,000 every month just to keep up with the increase in population. Since 2009, when the recession supposedly ended, the civilian population age 16 and above has grown from 236 million to 246 million. Meanwhile, the number who were employed grew from 140 million to 144 million. In other words, of the 10 million who entered the working age population, only 4 million found a job.

Compare the current “recovery” with two others. From 1983 to 1987, population grew by almost 9 million; jobs by almost 12 million. From 1993 to 1997, population grew by a bit over 8 million, jobs a bit over 9 million. Those were strong recoveries – employment grew even faster than population. In the eleven recoveries since they started collecting statistics in 1948, the current recovery is by far the weakest and slowest.

US News magazine has a fascinating chart from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. It shows both the unemployment rate and the EMployment rate from 1948 through 2013. They show the data for employment and unemployment separately because the two are calculated differently. But for more than 60 years, covering 10 recessions, employment and unemployment are mirror images of each other. When employment goes up, unemployment goes down and vice versa.

This time is different. For the first time in the history of these employment statistics, employment is NOT moving up. By the government calculations, unemployment has improved but employment as a percentage of the population has held steady for four years at a level much worse than we have seen for 30 years.

employment to population

But how can unemployment go down without employment going up? If you stop being unemployed doesn’t that mean you are employed? Well, no. Many people are not counted as either employed or unemployed; they are counted as “Not in labor force”. If you have been unemployed for so long that you give up looking, then you stop being counted as unemployed, and are instead counted as no longer in the labor force.

A record high 92 million people are counted as no longer in the labor force, an increase of 10 million in just 4 years. Some people will say that it is because baby boomers are retiring. That’s a nice theory but the numbers say otherwise. Those aged 55 and above have actually seen their employment numbers grow by 6 million people. It is the younger workers from 16-54 who have lost jobs – 8 million jobs.

In the four years of the current “recovery” the number of Millennials working full-time has decreased every year. The number living at home with their parents has grown every year. This is a human tragedy.

On top of all the ongoing poor employment numbers, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that ObamaCare will cost 2.3 million jobs by 2021. Apologists quickly countered that it would not be because people lost their jobs; rather it would be because people decided not to work. “When Americans quit looking for work because they conclude not working beats working, America faces a significant problem” says a white paper from Express Employment Professionals.

Some say that were are in a “New normal”. Many of us – I hope most of us – do not believe in a “fate that will fall on us no matter what we do.” For most of its existence, the United States has been the freest, most prosperous nation on earth. It is long established that freedom and prosperity go hand in hand; more freedom produces greater prosperity.

Sadly, the U.S. has moved away from freedom to a more and more intrusive government. The Index of Economic Freedom reported just last month that “The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years.” Hmm, could that explain the awful employment?

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Great article by Rand Paul

One of Rand Paul’s strengths is that he connects well with his audiences. This article is addressed to college students but has a good message for all of us.

The federal government now attempts to micromanage American life at practically every level.

The government tells you what kind of lightbulbs you can buy, what kind of toilet can be in your home, how much water can come out of your showerhead. Privacy is seemingly an antiquated notion, with government snoops able to access third-party records, such as phone records, e-mails, financial records, and pretty much any other personal information they want, without a judge’s warrant.
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America has drifted away from the constitutional principles of limited government, separation of powers, and individual liberty.
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We need to do a better job of communicating why big government is the problem—why it is bad for the economy, freedom, and a restrained, yet strong, foreign policy.
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conservative solutions are tangible too. We’re not just saying no to more government. Our proposals will lead the way to more prosperity, more stable families, political decisions made at the local level, a dollar that holds up in a global marketplace, an education system that puts students and parents first, a vibrant culture supported by religious institutions, and opportunities for young people like you to grow and lead America into a renewed age of freedom.
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Our political opponents and the media like to portray conservatives as unconcerned about the poor, senior citizens, and minorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. But we need to do a better job of communicating the promise of conservatism, not simply the failures of liberalism. We advocate not for special privileges for “the rich” but rather for a flourishing economy that lifts everyone up, creating millions of jobs and lessening the burden of taxes and government regulation.

We need to shout to anyone who will listen, “More freedom and less government means more jobs, more wealth, and a better life for everyone.” Despite the trillions of taxpayer dollars spent on bailouts and “stimulus” plans over the past several years, the economy hasn’t fully recovered from the Great Recession.

One in six Americans lives in poverty, more than at any other time in the past several decades. This is unacceptable.
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Decentralization of power is the best policy. Government is more efficient, more just, and more personal when it is smaller and more local. By decentralizing government, we strengthen communities, allowing people to depend on and care for one another, rather than on some distant, incompetent bureaucracy masquerading as defender of the common good. This is a message we need to do a better job communicating.

Read the whole thing.

Poll: Record high number oppose ObamaCare

A record high number of registered voters (59%) oppose ObamaCare and a record low number (36%) favor it. Interestingly, the increase in opposition comes from Democrats and independents. 30% of Democrats, up from 22%, oppose the law. Among independents, 64% (up from 53%) oppose it.

Some apparent reasons for opposition to the law include the fact that majorities think the new law will increase their taxes (63 percent), increase their insurance costs (62 percent) and increase the federal deficit (56 percent).

Meanwhile, just one voter in five thinks Obamacare will increase the quality of their health care (19 percent).  More than twice as many expect the quality of their care to get worse (39 percent) and another 37 percent think it will stay the same.

  • By 42%-27% voters think that Obama’s policies have hurt, not helped, the economy
  • A whopping 74% feel as if the country is still in a recession
  • By 55%-30% they think cutting taxes and reducing regulations would help the economy
  • 55% vs 37% think that long-term unemployment benefits discourage people from trying to find work
  • A majority (52%) think the government should provide unemployment benefits for at most one year

Chicago readers, can anyone help?

Is there anyone from Chicago who can help this woman:

I lost my job a year ago. I am still unemployed and was barely living on $143/week (net) Unemployment Insurance with some food stamps. My slumlord decided to raise the rent. I told him I couldn’t afford it because I had lost my job, but I could pay half ($200). He took me to court and had me evicted. I had been renting a room in his townhouse for 3-1/2 years where he and his family lives. They all know what a decent clean woman I am, but he kicked me out on the street anyway. I had nowhere to go. No family to turn to. My so-called friends (that I’ve known for many years) turned their back on me and never offered me their couch to sleep on, including one woman who had been homeless many years ago with 2 small children! Apparently they’d rather see me risk my heath and safety by living on the street. For 5 weeks I slept on CTA buses and trains. I chose to do this instead of going to a homeless shelter where I would put up with addicts, psychos and BUGS; it was safer and cleaner on buses and trains. After the first week I developed edema due to the fact I was always either sitting or standing; never allowing for proper circulation. In the 4th week I started getting sick (flu/cold). Chicago is cold in November, etc. On 24 November an acquaintance took me into her home, a 3 bedroom apartment. I currently sleep in my own (warm!) room. Unfortunately, she plans to go out of town 25 January for the entire weekend and doesn’t want anyone in the apartment. I still have nowhere to go so I’ll be living on the streets again — literally; my monthly bus pass expires on the 24th. I can’t afford to buy another one.

I am NOT a bum; I don’t even consume alcohol or drugs; don’t smoke, either!
OF COURSE, I am looking for a job! Anything! But who will hire a 58 y.o. woman?
I have also been going to agencies to find decent bug-free housing. There are thousands of people on the waiting lists. What little belongings I have left are in public storage. What happens if I can’t pay February’s rent? I lose all that, too? I can’t afford to replace the items, especially the irreplaceable sentimental items. Must I be further punished by not receiving extended Unemployment Benefits? I want to live. Just like you do. I want a decent job and to live in my own decent apartment. I still want to look forward to retirement.

Do you get my point?

Thank you.

That was her comment to my earlier post about extended unemployment. I would love to show her that voluntary interactions can help her get a job and a place to live faster than government can.

If you can help, please let me know. Faith Marie left a Yahoo email address (which I don’t feel free to post publicly) so I can contact her.

Extending unemployment benefits can hurt the unemployed

A strange thing happened when North Carolina slashed unemployment benefits. People got jobs. Unemployment fell to its lowest level in five years. 

Economists have observed this behavior for decades. The unemployed are most likely to find a job when their unemployment benefits are about to run out. 

Their new job may not be as good as they want but any job is better than staying unemployed. Someone who is unemployed for more than six months is at risk of never finding a job again. 

When “compassionate” politicians extend unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks, the unintended consequence is often to condemn recipients to permanent unemployment.

Less freedom, worse economy

The U.S. has dropped even lower in the Index of Economic Freedom, published annually by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. “The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years.” Since 2006, the U.S. has lost six points, has dropped out of the top 10, and has slipped from “Free” to “Mostly Free”.

It should surprise nobody that our economy is in bad shape. Economic freedom correlates closely with prosperity, lifespan, and happiness. We have terrible unemployment, millions have given up even looking for a job, median family income drops year after year.
Lots more interesting info at the link.
 

Millennials Are Tiring of Liberal Failures

National Review predicts that 2014 will be “the year that a majority of millennials become disillusioned with their allegiance to today’s liberal movement and look elsewhere for political relevance.”

A poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found strong majorities – nearly 2:1 – opposing Obama’s handling of the economy, health care, and the federal deficit. “A majority of Americans under age 25–the youngest millennials–would favor throwing Obama out of office.”

The Pajama Boy ObamaCare ads did not go over well with millennials.

The real Pajama Boy has a 50 percent chance of being unemployed or underemployed, on average is laden with thousands of dollars of student-loan debt, and is increasingly likely to still live at home with his parents.

Millennials “realize that a government that can’t design a website can’t be expected to manage the intricacies of the entire health-care industry. In the wake of the news that the NSA collects mountains of metadata, they also fret that the government that wants you to talk about health care could (with a warrant) listen in on that very conversation.”

Other data suggest that millennials share conservative views of government:

  • 51% believe that when government runs something, it is usually wasteful and inefficient
  • 86% support private Social Security accounts
  • 74% would change Medicare so people can buy private insurance
  • 63% support free trade
  • only 38% support affirmative action

Here is the opening for conservatives to win back millennials. “Conservatives must offer positive, uplifting solutions that emphasize upward mobility, opportunity, and personal liberty through education, job creation, and reforming the over-intrusive federal government.”