Tags: Reich | Jobs | Deficit | economy

Robert Reich: Fix Jobs Market First, Then Worry About Deficit

Monday, 06 February 2012 07:52 AM

Economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says jobs should be Washington’s first focus, not the deficit. In fact, he says we can’t possibly achieve the growth needed to reduce the budget deficit as a proportion of the total economy unless far more people are employed.

“The most significant aspect of January’s jobs report is political,” Reich writes in the Chicago Sun Times. “The fact that America’s labor market continues to improve is good news for the White House.”

“But as a practical matter, the improvement is less significant for the American work force. At January’s rate of job gains — 243,000 — the nation won’t return to full employment for another seven years,” says Reich, now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

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America’s job deficit is still mammoth, notes Reich, and our working-age population has grown by nearly 10 million since the recession officially began in December 2007.

However, many of these people never entered the work force and millions of others are still too discouraged to look for work.

“The most direct way of measuring the jobs deficit is to look at the share of the working-age population in jobs,” says Reich, noting that, before the recession, 63.3 percent of working-age Americans had jobs.

“That reached a low last summer of 58.2 percent,” says Reich, who served in three national administrations and was a secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. “Now it’s 58.5 percent. That’s better than it was, but not by much.”

Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul says that the slight decrease in unemployment figures “is not all that glamorous” because millions of former jobseekers are disengaged from the job market.

"More important if you admit the truth," Paul told CBS News. "We quit counting people."

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