The U.S. Department of Labor has just released its latest job report.
The nation added 178,000 private-sector jobs in November. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent. Both numbers were better than economists had forecasted.
Good news, yes? Well, not exactly. That depends on a single political factor, or so it seems: your political persuasion.
President Barack Obama has overseen an astounding string of consecutive months with job growth: the count now stands at 81 months. When he took office in January 2009, the nation was shedding three-quarters of a million jobs a month; we were in the midst of that worldwide economic/financial collapse, if memory serves.
Jobs are up.
The jobless rate is down to 4.6 percent. That’s the lowest since the days of the Clinton administration.
Good news, yes?
Hold on! Not quite. Obama critics cite something called the “workplace participation rate.” That includes a metric that measures the number of people looking for work. When the jobless rate falls to this kind of level, the critics suggest that’s a symptom of folks who no longer are “participating” in the job search.
Thus, the good news becomes bad news … according to the critics.
There used to be a time when you could measure joblessness and economic health using the number of jobs being created and the rate of unemployment.
Jobs are up. Joblessness is down.
That’s no longer good enough.
My head is spinning.