President Barack Obama, who submitted his American Jobs Act to Congress earlier this week—including bills that aim to use a combination of spending and tax cuts to spur job growth—seems to be on the pulse of a larger political issue.
Though the unemployment rate has been high for months, it’s never been more clear that joblessness is the primary concern for nearly a majority of average American voters.
According to a Gallup poll released Thursday, almost 40 percent of Americans said in September that unemployment or joblessness is the biggest issue facing the country. This figure lept up from 29 percent figure in August. Today, Americans cite unemployment more than "the economy" as the nation's most important problem, the report said.
It’s been more than a years since unemployment trumped the economy as the primary concern for Americans, and the reason is likely the news of a near-stagnant job market.
The Labor Department reported earlier this month that U.S. employers added no new jobs in August as the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent. And the trend won’t likely shift anytime soon as, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office told a congressional committee earlier this week. Elmendorf said his non-partisan agency predicts the unemployment rate will hover at 9 percent through the end of next year.”
This news has prompted many experts to say that tackling unemployment issues is the key to getting the nation’s economy back on track. Larry Summers, the former director of the White House National Economic Council, wrote in an op-ed in the Financial Times in June that boosting spending, borrowing and lending would help to turn the economy around by increasing demand and creating jobs.
But the fact remains that many struggling Americans are having trouble waiting for a federal solution their income problems.
It’s not simply the lack of quantity of the jobs, it’s the quality of those jobs that may or may not be available. Virtually all of the growth in employment between 1990 and 2008 was in the nontradable sector of the economy, which isn’t subject to international competition. Government and health care together accounted for almost 40 percent of the jobs added. But any and all employment growth in that sector is likely to slow if and when government spending is restrained. Restrained growth in these values also signals fewer gains in wages. Meaning even those who are luck enough to be employed are not making what they were—or in some cases enough to keep up.
Even now, job seekers are lining up line up at job fairs from California to the Carolinas. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week jumped to the highest level in three months, a sign that layoffs could be increasing even as the economy continues its slow (but barely recognizable) recovery.
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