The BLS February employment report is out today, and the headline unemployment rate (U-3) is steady at 8.3%. By September, it could be 7.9% or less, which might be low enough to get Obama reelected.
However, we are a long, long, LONG way from full employment. The employment population ratio remains below where it was two years ago—and below where it was 34 years ago when women were just starting to enter the work force in large numbers:
Where are the 13 million jobs we need to get back to 64%, and how long will it take? US employment back to normal in 2016, 2027, or never?
Richard Eskow at OurFuture.org uses this graph to show how poorly job losses are being regained versus previous recessions:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart by Amanda Cox/The New York Times. Horizontal axis shows months. Vertical axis shows the ratio of that month’s nonfarm payrolls to the nonfarm payrolls at the start of recession.
Eskow points out that this gives the Administration a messaging challenge that it has not solved:
Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats are in an unenviable position: If they celebrate the tepid revival of jobs growth they run the risk of being seen as out of touch with the ongoing pain of many Americans and the reduced prospects for many others. If they acknowledge the ongoing misery that has abandoned millions of Americans to long-term joblessness, and millions of others to wage stagnation, they're giving ammunition to their own opponents.
The President hasn't struck the right balance yet.