op-ed

Underwhelmed with unemployment numbers

Lenny McAllister Contributor

Any time we hear that jobs were added to the economy these days, we have to get excited—at least a little.

Any time we hear that over 40,000 of those jobs are part-time positions that are directly tied to the Census—that is, more temporary government jobs—well, we have to sigh.

And then, once we look to see that private sector jobs are not coming back into the fold as we need, then we have no other choice but to wonder: what’s next?

Throughout 2009, the defense of stimulus spending without stimulating the economy with job creation was that the money from the stimulus was not completely filtered through the system. Now that we have moved over 12 months past the passage of the trillion-dollar package, we have seen the stock market recover without employment recovery. The rub was that jobs would follow—eventually—but as the Obama administration champions the latest news on the job front as a sign that things are turning around, Americans will remember that the creation of more temporary positions should not be seen as a viable option for American long-term prosperity or as a “victory” by the administration.

Just as the health care “victory” for President Obama and the Democrats has centered much around a mandate for working-class and entry-level Americans, this round of “good news” centers on the antithesis of true employment—growth in the public sector without much private sector growth at all. With a steady unemployment rate of 9.7 percent hovering in the background, any news of short-lived, lower-paying positions do not serve as a barometer for the White House to use as a guide to gain support from more Americans during the job-related portion of this economic crisis. The true trouble areas are seen in the weeds of the labor-related numbers. With African-American unemployment officially at 16.9 percent (with true unemployment numbers and underemployment numbers even lower) and high unemployment numbers for entry-level workers (such as teenagers and recent college graduates) as Latino-Americans, the ability of many American cities is hamstrung until the growth of jobs seen in the Washington, D.C., area is mirrored in other cities throughout the nation. President Obama’s tenure as a state senator should come into play here: without a resurgence of viable, long-term positions for urban citizens, there should not be a surge of excitement from any of the president’s supporters concerning his directives concerning economic recovery. The lack of focus to get long-term initiatives into the urban centers of the country will all but ensure that celebrating job growth spurred by 45,000 Census workers will ring hollow as Congress is in recess, even as unemployment extensions have run out for many Americans. As long as former vibrant centers such as Charlotte hover around 12 percent unemployment officially while segments of Americans (such as the young and the biggest two ethnic groups) continue to struggle mightily as well, the president’s hollow words in Charlotte or elsewhere will work against the Democrats as November approaches.

The euphoria from the health care vote should be tempered with a realization that the president’s stimulus package has not worked to date for everyday Americans, a looming reality when facing the fact that the health care legislation—if unaffected by looming lawsuits this summer or elections this fall—may very well create additional taxes and others inhibitors that will impact job growth in a negative way moving forward. The highest-ranking economic officials with the Obama administration reiterate the same caveat: the federal government can only do so much in order to stimulate job growth, a startling admission considering that there are moves that the administration has undertaken to discourage job growth—including focusing on health care legislation that creates new taxes.

At some point, the White House and Congressional Democrats will need to put more initiatives into place that are friendly to the private sector, or else they will be counting more than just Census forms and Census workers later on this year. They will be counting down the days until a slew of frustrated and unemployed American voters let their voices be known.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator, podcast co-host, and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. He will be featured on WNYC Radio this Tuesday at 10:25 AM EST. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .