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Unemployment: How to get ourselves out of the job crisis

President Obama

The good news: Factories, auto manufacturers, healthcare providers and retailers are hiring, reports The Times' Don Lee in an article about Friday's unemployment report. The bad news: Although the unemployment rate dipped in July -- from 9.2% to 9.1% -- it's nowhere near the magic 8% pundits say we need to reach for President Obama to win reelection. Lee wrote:

Officially, the government said about 14 million workers were unemployed in July, similar to the prior two months, but these figures don't include people who have given up searching for work, or the 8.4 million workers who want full-time jobs but have no choice but to work part-time.

Worse: A new survey by the Society for Human Resources Management shows that hiring will slow in August, wrote Alana Semuels on the Money & Company blog, and that the private sector will cut jobs.

Now that the debt-ceiling debacle is over, Obama is shifting his attention back to the unemployment crisis, including the need to keep members of the armed forces employed when they return home. On Aug. 15, Obama will even embark on bus tour dedicated to job creation. The problem is, say several opinionators, the promise to focus on jobs sounds a little empty. Here's the Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway on the subject:

Following Obama's Rose Garden speech, Politico's Ben Smith tweeted:

How many times has Obama officially "turned his attention to jobs" in his presidency? A dozen?

Well, the RNC has the depressingly detailed list of these pivots if you're interested. Suffice to say, today's speech isn't going to convince anyone that this time it's different. It's increasingly clear that the Obama administration devoted all of its energy upfront to passing the stimulus package and Obamacare and then expected the economy and entitlements to sort themselves out while they coasted until the next campaign. At a certain point, you pivot so many times you're just going in circles, like someone put a blindfold on Obama and told him we're playing Pin the Tail on the Economy.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rallied back on the naysayers in a USA Today Op-Ed article about a bipartisan plan to create jobs. She wrote:

In Congress, our work must be putting people back to work. To meet that charge, Democrats have proposed our "Make It In America" initiative, led by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. It presents ideas backed by both parties: to rebuild our roads, bridges, and rail lines; to invest in innovation, broadband, clean energy, and new technologies to create the jobs of tomorrow for our businesses and workers.

Make It In America is a manufacturing strategy designed to create jobs and keep America No. 1, and it will fulfill President Obama's goal to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. This is not a partisan agenda or cause; it is an American priority.

If only the parties could actually work together so that Americans who deserve better don't fall through the cracks while the "gold-plated" crowd gets richer. Here's the sad truth, wrote The Times' editorial board:

Minutes after the Senate gave final approval to the hard-fought debt-ceiling deal, President Obama declared that it was time again for Washington to focus on jobs. It's past time, really. But getting the divided ranks in Washington to agree on how to put people back to work won't be any easier than getting them to agree to raise the debt limit. The tussle over the budget reflects the deep split between the two parties not just over the capital's fiscal problems, but also over what those problems mean for the economy.

But maybe we shouldn't read too much into these monthly job reports; at the very least, we shouldn't let the numbers discourage us, wrote the Christian Science Monitor's editorial board. Here's an excerpt from their editorial calling for innovation:

While having a job is certainly important, a public emphasis on job statistics is like looking the wrong way down a telescope. What's needed instead are ways to measure -- and support -- the quality and quantity of new ideas that can be commercialized into new businesses.

Take the hot market for smart phone apps (notably the game Angry Birds). Thousands of these software products are being created each day by entrepreneurs worldwide. Each innovative app provides a service, creates jobs, and generates profits.

Such a phenomenon shows that an economy is not about material things but instead the caliber of thought. Throughout history, jobs have been created when someone starts a business with such qualities as innovative vision, precise communication, long-term commitment, and integrity in relationships. [...]

Cities that recognize the power of ideas for business have done better than those that don’t. For example, Austin, the capital of Texas, had the nation's highest level of job creation from 2003 to 2008 in large part because it attracted creative people and tapped into the intellectual capital of the University of Texas. [...]

Ideas for starting businesses need wings -- whether those wings come from venture capital or government support. But they also need to be better measured. Such indicators are far more telling of humanity's potential and its future than a jobs index.

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-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: President Obama speaks about the economy at the Washington Navy Yard on Friday. Credit: Mark Wilson /Getty Images

 

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