As the 2016 presidential election rapidly approaches, broad consensus seems to exist that the U.S. economy has done a good job creating more employment as the current recovery has proceeded, but that progress has been notably uneven. New figures from the Labor Department confirm the latter belief, but continue posing a challenge to the former.
Each month, Labor issues numbers on how many American metropolitan areas have seen their jobless rates go up on an annual basis, how many have seen them fall, and where the situation is unchanged. A few months ago, I reported that the number of these city and suburb combinations with falling jobless rates looked to be shrinking considerably, and the number where unemployment was rising was growing. Today’s statistics from Labor (for August) show that the situation has worsened further.
That month, jobless rates rose year-on-year for 123 of the 387 metro areas tracked, and fell for 242. The jobs picture was unchanged in 23. That’s a noteworthy deterioration from the statistics I last examined, for April. Then, unemployment rates rose year-on-year in 94 of the 387 metro areas, fell in 296, and stayed the same in 24.
In fact, the August numbers are the worst proportionately since January, 2013. Then, jobless rates rose in 124 of the 372 metro areas Labor was tracking at the time – or 33.33 percent. This past August, the 123 jobs laggards represented 31.78 percent of the 387 areas currently monitored.
It’s still possible that these August numbers are outliers. The May and June numbers, after all, were more comforting. (I couldn’t find the July figures.) But think about how long the current recovery has lasted (more than seven years). Then think about how low overall national unemployment has fallen. (It peaked at 10 percent in October, 2009 and stood at just 4.9 percent in August, the last data month we have,) That’s why it’s getting tough to imagine realistically that the number of American urban areas with rising jobless rates won’t keep rising itself.
And for you RealityChek regulars, I’m still waiting for those furshlugginer final presidential debate TV ratings!