Get Out The Cat Food

More data validating what you already know: We’re screwed.

A brutal unemployment report this month. Payrolls dropped by 125,000. In another one of those unwanted lessons in how we calculate unemployment data, the unemployment rate dropped from 9.7 percent to 9.5 percent — but not because people got hired. Instead, 652,000 people gave up and stopped looking for work. And that number might be higher than it looks, as the natural monthly growth in the labor force is about 100,000 — so to see a 652,000-person drop might mean something like 752,000 current workers left as 100,000 new workers entered.

It’s true that when the National Bureau of Economic Research dates the end of the recession, it will probably have ended months ago. And it’s true that the financial crisis has been over some time. But we really do remain in a jobs crisis. The fact that things are getting better most months, though worse in some months, obscures both how bad the situation is and how rapid our improvement has to be to really make a dent in it. But in the Senate, Republicans and Ben Nelson are objecting to using emergency legislative powers to pass further unemployment benefits, and there seems to be no appetite to try to intervene in this crisis in any further way.