Americans faced another disappointing jobs picture today. Of course, we could go through the numbers again. With the working age population growing by 191,000 last month, 80,000 more jobs doesn’t even come close to absorbing all these new workers, let alone employing those who have long been out of work. And then there’s the most important number of all: for 41 months, the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent.
But how does the US labor market compare to Europe or the rest of the world? Earlier this week news reports may have made Americans feel a little better, if only by comparison. Reflecting the philosophy that you should be thankful for what you have because things could always be worse, the headline in the Los Angeles Times read: “Think 8.2% unemployment is bad? It's a record 11.1% in Europe.” An Associated Press article carried by Fox News and a host of other outlets made the same point.
The point has not been lost on President Obama, whose administration frequently references Europe as an explanation for our slow growth. Last month, Obama noted: “slower growth in Europe means slower growth in American jobs.”
The problem with such a seemingly obvious comparison is that the US and most of Europe define unemployment quite differently. . . .
Labels: Op-ed, unemployment