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The Jobless Recovery Trudges Joblessly On

Economy cheerleaders erupted today at the news that only 36,000 Americans lost their jobs in February, as compared to the 50,000 American jobs expected to be sacrificed to the Snowpocalypse gods. Of course, that means 15 million Americans remain unemployed, and 40 percent of those people have been unemployed for more than six months — and that’s not even the worst of the bad news.

If you count people that want, but cannot find, full-time work and those who are unemployed but no longer actively looking for jobs (what with employers still shedding jobs rather than creating new ones), underemployment is up to 16.8 percent. Part of that may well be that the Labor Department counts anyone who worked for even an hour during the Snowpocalypse as “employed,” even if they did not get paid for the forced time off.

Worse yet for the many Americans paid by the hour, the average workweek fell to 33.8 hours. Someone working that many hours at minimum wage would earn $12,743 in a year, which is above the poverty line for a single person but far below it for anyone with dependents. The poverty line for a family of two — which could be a mother with one child — is $14,570, or $510 less than a person making minimum wage would earn if she worked 40 hours a week every week for a year. Of course, the official poverty line doesn’t currently take into account the actual cost of living, health care costs or child care costs — all of which, when added into the new supplemental poverty measure, increase the number of officially impoverished people. Most people who were able to work the average number of hours at a job at minimum wage would likely need two such jobs to be able to provide the basics for themselves and their families, but there aren’t enough jobs for nearly 17 percent of Americans to get one, let alone two.

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