Good riddance to 8 percent unemployment
It was a long time coming: The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September after 43 months at 8 percent of higher, according to a report issued Friday by the Labor Department. That was the most extended run at that painfully high level since the Depression.
Political perceptions — and suspicions — aside, all Americans should welcome the end of that losing streak.
But we should also consider some other pertinent statistics showing that far too many Americans remain jobless.
President Barack Obama predictably hailed Friday’s news as “a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney predictably offered this contrasting reminder: “We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office.”
And former General Electric CEO Jack Welch was among many folks who accused the Obama team of cooking the books to boost the president’s re-election chances, tweeting: “Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can’t debate so change numbers.”
We prefer to believe the decline from 8.1 to 7.8 percent was legitimately calculated — and that the long-miserable jobs situation is finally improving, at least a bit.
We also know that September’s 7.8 unemployment rate, while still quite high on the historical scale, would be much higher if so many long-jobless Americans had not given on finding work. The unemployment rate is determined by the percentage of people in the labor force who don’t have jobs. And the percentage of Americans still in the labor force — the labor-participation rate — hit a 30-year low in August, and barely rose last month.
Still, September’s official unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is an overdue improvement over the previous 43 months.
And regardless of political leanings, Americans should be encouraged when the jobless rate improves.