"If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition." So said President Obama in February 2009, declaring that he would be held accountable if his policies failed to improve the economy. Obviously, this did not come to pass. Despite continued economic stagnation and extremely weak job creation, voters gave Obama a second term.
The job numbers released Friday offer still more grounds for buyer's remorse. The unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent, equal to the revised November rate and one-tenth higher than the more hopeful 7.7 percent figure that came out just before the election. Only 155,000 jobs were created in December 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' payroll survey. That is not enough to keep up with population increases, never mind produce economic growth. It is also roughly the same as the monthly average for all of 2012 and all of 2011.
Amid all the talk of workers giving up on the labor force, it's worth noting that the share of the adult U.S. population that is gainfully employed was back down again in December, to 58.6 percent, exactly where it had been a year earlier. That is down more than 4 percentage points since the recession began in December 2007, down 2 percentage points from when Obama took office, and down 0.8 points from where it was when the recession ended.
To make matters worse, what job gains there were last month all seem to be at the very bottom of the pay scale. According to the BLS household survey, all net jobs created in December among those 25 and older went to people with a high school education or less (about 37 percent of the labor force). Two-thirds of the jobs created went to high school dropouts (less than 10 percent of the workforce). This may be a good thing for those lacking in educational attainment, but it is also a sign of just how far from reality Obama's rhetoric has been about creating the jobs and industries of the future.
In short, although the Great Recession ended in June 2009, the job market has not recovered since then and is not recovering. The nation is still stuck in the same rut with few signs of hope that things will ever return to the "normal" of the last decade. Moreover, nothing the Obama administration proposes now -- more stimulus funding, for example -- holds forth any serious promise. This disappointing jobs report is the bleak sky that stands in the background as Obama delivers his second inaugural address.