Friday, December 04, 2009

Boy, that jobs summit worked fast

Just as President Obama was meeting with all his jobs summiteers, the White House also announced that he'd be giving a speech next week on jobs. That was fast! His meeting was supposed to give him ideas on how to address the stagnant jobs picture. And he already knew he'd learn so much that he could schedule a speech for Tuesday.

That's just one more indication that the summit was for the pictures. He already knew what he wanted to do. As Jason Zengerle writes,
Indeed, in the age of Obama, the summit has replaced the vaunted bipartisan commission as the ultimate empty gesture. Where a president once kicked a nettlesome political problem down the road by assembling a panel of bipartisan worthies to produce a report on entitlement reform, say, or how we made the mistake of thinking Saddam had WMDs, Obama now holds a confab to jawbone the problem to death. Even better, unlike with a bipartisan commission, with a summit, there’s no final report to have to contend with. That’s not to say Obama’s wonkery and love of deliberation is a pose. It isn’t. It’s just that we know he’s doing it for real when, as in the case of Afghanistan, he does it behind closed doors.
UPDATE: For those inclined to celebrate today's job report as demonstrating that the jobs summit actually worked retroactively to last month's labor numbers, here is one strong caveat.
Most attention will be focused on the fact that the unemployment rate fell from 10.2 percent to 10 percent. However, the unemployment rate fell because many people dropped out of the labor force entirely. Teenagers, who have the highest unemployment rate, were the most likely to leave the labor force. High-school dropouts and high-school graduates also left the labor force, and these groups also have high unemployment rates. The drop in the unemployment rate is due to these groups leaving the workforce. The unemployment rate will climb once more workers return to the labor force, so it is very likely that the unemployment rate will continue to climb well into 2010.

The sourest news was that unemployed workers continue having difficulty finding new jobs. The number of long-term unemployed — those out of work for more than six months — increased by 293,000, and the average and median length of unemployment both increased by about one and a half weeks.
Yes, 10% is better than 10.2%. But it's still not time to break out the champagne.