The March Employment Report was again pumped as another victory in the war against unemployment. But for millions of long-term unemployed, it's still a brutal battle to find work. That's why it's unfortunate that most main stream media outlets and politicos seem incapable of understanding, or chose to ignore the "real" unemployment numbers.
The BLS reported that unemployment (U3) for March was 8.8%, which is a slight improvement from February's 8.9%. 216,000 jobs were created, but that's a relatively small monthly number of jobs for what is supposedly a strong economic recovery from the Great Recession. In comparison, during the 2004 economic recovery, 338,000 jobs were created in March.
The Obama administration and media mouthpieces seem preoccupied with the U3, 8.8% measure of unemployment, but you need to dig into the numbers to reveal the "real" state of unemployment.
A disconnected news media conveniently forgets to mention that the US needs to create about 125,000 jobs a month to simply keep up with new entrants to the workforce. If you subtract 125,000 from 216,000 jobs created in March, you end up with 91,000 "extra" jobs for 13.5 million unemployed.
Underemployment remained quite high at 15.7%, or 8.2 million workers who want full-time work, but are forced to work part-time jobs of 34 hours a week or less. Yes, full-time work is considered 35 hours or more per week, although many "real world" workers consider jobs of less than 40 hours a week as part-time.
But what was most striking about the March jobs report was the continuing increase in the number of long-term unemployed. According to the BLS, March showed 1,899,000 workers who have been out of work for 99 weeks or more, an increase of 127,000 from February. The real 99er population is growing quickly and shows no signs of abating.
NELP estimates (PDF) that "throughout 2010, 3.9 million unemployed workers exhausted all of their unemployment benefits without finding new work." Exhausting unemployment benefits also includes those unemployed that exhausted benefits after 60, 73, 79, or 93 weeks, so NELP's estimate is larger than the BLS estimate for those out of work 99 weeks or more.
Not only are more unemployed out of work 99 weeks or longer, but those out of work 52 and 27 weeks or more are increasing as well. Those out of work 27 weeks or more now accounts for a record 45.5% (6.14 million) of all unemployed, while for those out of work 52 weeks or more the rate is 31.5% (4.25 million) of all unemployed; again a record high.
The participation rate is another employment issue rarely discussed on the national media stage. According to the BLS, "the participation rate is the share of the population 16 years and older working or seeking work."
The labor force participation rate was unchanged, 64.2%, the same as the previous two months. This is the lowest labor participation rate since March 1984.
The March Employment Report showed some job gains, but not nearly enough jobs were created to put a dent in the long-term unemployment problem. Media talking heads and politicians looking for 2012 votes touted the March jobs report as a winner, but it was a loser for millions of increasingly desperate long-term unemployed who are struggling without jobs or unemployment benefits. Let's not hang those "Mission Accomplished" banners just yet...