Everyone knows the unemployment rate is painfully high and not falling. Friday's monthly jobs report from the Department of Labor put a cruel point on this fact: In August, job gains in the private sector were entirely offset by job losses in the public sector, netting precisely zero new payrolls for the month.
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Zero is a striking number in this context, but it's also a bit misleading. For instance, private sector job creation appeared artificially lower than it should have because 45,000 Verizon workers were on strike when the survey was taken. What happened in August has been happening for months, as policy makers allow federal spending to fall and, thus, for government jobs to disappear, placing a significant drag on overall growth.
Experts disagree to some extent over the precise measures lawmakers should take to stanch this bleeding -- but overwhelmingly they agree it can be stanched. Their recommendations give the lie to the idea -- pushed by conservatives and adopted by some Democrats -- that government is growing out of control and deficits need to be addressed urgently. And yet nearly all major news outlets ignore, or bury this fact -- indeed, most reports of this month's jobs figures place no emphasis on the contraction of the public sector, and the implications thereof.
Here's a sample.