The U.S. economy only added 74,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department announced on Friday.
“Only 62.8% of the adult workforce participated in the jobs market in December, down 0.2 percentage points from the previous month. It was the lowest participation rate – the number of people employed or actively looking for work – since the 1970s,” writes Dominic Rushe for the Guardian.
The unemployment number fell from seven percent to 6.7 percent, but this is because many of the unemployed have given up looking for work, so they're no longer counted as unemployed.
The number for December came as a shock to many, as November had seen an increase of 241,000 jobs, and 200,000 in October. Additionally, the average number of job additions throughout last year was 188,000.
In response, the White House downplayed the significance of the numbers, as Jason Furman, the chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, insisted that the economy is improving.
“We continue to focus on the longer-term trend in the economy — 2.2 million private sector jobs added and a 1.2 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate over the course of 2013,” Furman said.
Not everyone was so positive about these numbers, however. Speaker of the House John Boehner criticized the administration for policies that he said “are failing.”
“Today’s disappointing report shows, once again, that the president’s policies are failing too many Americans, many of whom have simply stopped looking for work,” Boehner said.
Unemployment numbers have been dropping over the last couple of years, causing Obama to tout the success of his economic policies; however, the numbers may not be as good as they seem.
Like with last month, many people have given up searching for work. When that happens, the Labor Department no longer counts them as unemployed. These people are called “discouraged workers.”
While jobs have been added, many of these are people working part-time who need full-time.
This was especially the case throughout last year, according to a report from CNN this past August.
According to CNN, more than three times as many people were working part-time rather than full-time. Temp work also increased, from 2.5 million people working these jobs in July 2012 to 2.7 million in July 2013.
The reasons for this, reports CNN, include “a payroll tax hike, sequestration, weak economic growth, and continued partisan battles in Washington D.C. And then there's Obamacare, which will require employers with 50 or more full-time [employees] to provide health insurance or face penalties ... though that mandate has been delayed until 2015.”