The last time the unemployment rate was below 6 percent was in July 2008. Moreover, while the labor force fell slightly (though statistically insignificantly) last month, the decline in the jobless rate over the past year has come for the "right" reason: more people finding work, not leaving the job market.
Happy 4th of July weekend! The week leading up to the holiday gave us much to celebrate -- and much not to celebrate. We can certainly rejoice that Hurricane Arthur failed to do much damage before weakening and heading out to sea. But there can only be consternation at the Supreme Court's decision to allow some corporations to withhold birth control coverage -- damage reports to follow in the years to come. We can also celebrate that the latest jobs numbers showed the economy added 288,000 jobs in June. Far less worthy of fireworks is the fact that wage growth still lags in this unequal recovery. And though there were ugly anti-immigration protests in Southern California, we can celebrate that most Americans realize it's our shared history as a nation of immigrants that defines us.
With Friday's numbers showing the addition of 217,000 jobs, the U.S. finally restored the 9 million jobs lost in the recession -- five years after it supposedly ended. But we can keep the champagne on the shelf: we still need an estimated 7 million more jobs to keep up with population growth; if we count those who've dropped out of the labor force, our current unemployment rate would actually be 9.7 percent; and, adjusting for inflation, hourly wages are actually lower now than at the end of the recession. So we may have recovered 9 million jobs, but we seem to have lost all sense of urgency about saving the middle class. Meanwhile, the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees held at Guantanamo was as messy and ambiguous as the overlong war it sprung out of.