When a new year begins, it is supposed to bring in a wave of optimism. After all, if people can not be optimistic at the beginning of a process, when can they be upbeat?
Well, last week's unemployment numbers dropped a big wet blanket on the early optimism of 2011. Although the national unemployment rate did drop to 9.4 percent, job gains in the private sector were less than anticipated.
In December, only 103,000 jobs were added nationwide, according to the Labor Department. It had been hoped that up to 150,000 jobs would be added, but it did not happen.
President Obama did try to spin this news in an optimistic way. He emphasized that December was the twelfth consecutive month in which the private sector added jobs. He said this was the first time this had happened since 2006.
I guess that is the silver lining in this very dark cloud.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke probably gave the most honest assessment of the situation when he said “it could take four to five more years for the job market to normalize fully.”
The reason is that the economy lost a whole lot of jobs in 2008 and 2009. It lost 8.5 million during that time, according to The Los Angeles Times. Since then, the economy has only recovered 1.1 million of them.
It does not take a math scholar to realize that it is going to take a long time to get back to where we were a few years ago. For example, to get the unemployment rate back down near five percent again, the economy would need to create approximately 335,000 jobs a month for the next four years, according to The Times.
As December's pathetic numbers show us, we are not even close to that.
So, what does this mean? It means our nation continues to face tough times, and our elected officials have to go on the offensive when it comes to creating jobs.
However, I am not sure our officials are totally in tune with this reality. For instance, when the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives took over earlier this month, one of its first items of business was to debate about what to do with the Obamacare healthcare package that passed last year.
Now, I have a lot of concerns about that reform package. The cost associated with the package will create financial challenges for businesses and could impact their ability to hire people.
However, should this have been at the top of the agenda for the Republicans given all the other challenges our nation faces?
Anything passed in the House on this matter will certainly be vetoed by the Democratically-controlled Senate. Attacking Obamacare right now is a waste of time. All the posturing that took place appeared insensitive to the millions of Americans looking for work and needing a little assistance from our elected officials.
Put yourself in the shoes of somebody who has been unemployed for a long time. Your life is already on edge. A weekly unemployment check is not nearly enough to meet your bills. Then, you come home in the evening, turn on the television, and get greeted by the spectacle of our leaders ignoring the most important domestic issue we have.
Yes, I know discussions on the economy have picked up in the last week. However, it all seemed so dreadfully symbolic of the disconnect between Washington and the rest of the nation.
The bottom line is people reading this who have a good job should be grateful for it.
Even if a person dislikes his job they should feel gratitude. There are a lot of people who would gladly take it if given the opportunity.