On June 1, the Labor Department released a grim jobs report. A meager 69,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May, far below the 150,000 economists say are needed just to keep pace with the number of new entrants into the workforce. Corrections were also issued for the last two months – it turns out our economy added 19,000 fewer jobs in March and 43,000 fewer in April than previously estimated.
All told, this takes us a step backward in our excruciatingly long march to recovery, with the unemployment rate shooting back up to 8.2 percent. This marks the 40th straight month that unemployment has stayed at or above the 8 percent mark – a post-World War II record.
The Obama Administration will note that private-sector payroll has now increased for 27 months, growing by about 4 percent over that period. However, the majority of those months did not see growth sufficient to keep up with the number of new entrants into the workforce. In fact, the Obama recovery ranks a disappointing 9th out of 10 post-war recoveries in terms of job creation.
As for the Obama economy as a whole, growth in the most recent quarter was just 1.9 percent. By comparison, at this point during the Reagan recovery, economic growth was 6.1 percent. Indeed, since the recession technically ended in 2009, the U.S. economy has grown at an average quarterly rate of 2.4 percent, while the Reagan recovery posted average quarterly increases of more than 6 percent. Thus, in terms of growth, the Obama recovery ranks 10th out of 10 post-war recoveries.
We face other challenges as well.
The number of long-term unemployed has increased by 89 percent under the current administration. Among women, the poverty rate has reached a 17-year high. Forty-five million Americans are using food stamps – more than at any point in our history. Half of recent college graduates can’t find a job or are underemployed.
This all comes against a backdrop of soaring cost-of-living increases for middle-income families: worker health insurance has spiked by about 23 percent, home values have plunged by 14 percent, and gas prices remain stuck at around $4 a gallon.
Arizonans know these are not signs of a recovering economy; they’re signs of a weakened economy and diminishing opportunity. Moreover, these statistics are more than just numbers on a page – they tell the story of graduates losing hope, of families struggling to make ends meet, of frustrated small-business owners unable to hire back former employees.
Clearly, it’s time for a new approach on the economy. What the administration has been doing thus far simply has not worked, and I urge President Obama to work with both parties in Congress to develop innovative solutions that can start turning things around.
For instance, he could help us reduce the rapidly escalating burden of Washington regulation by pushing for Senate votes on numerous bills passed by the House to do just that. He could also work with us to increase the production of American energy, such as expanding the development of domestic resources and by approving the Keystone pipeline.
Perhaps most importantly, though, he could work with us to help stop the largest tax increase in history – a $4.5 trillion hike that will take effect in just eight months if we don’t act to stop it. He could push for an extension of all income, capital gains, and dividends-investment rates from the tax relief passed in 2001 and 2003. He did so in 2010, and he should do so again to ensure our economy does not collapse under the weight of a multi-trillion dollar tax hike. Indeed, as we’ve seen in the most recent economic data, the mere possibility of this enormous tax increase is likely already hurting our economy.
There is much we can do together, but it will take partnership – and it will take presidential leadership.
Arizonans are hurting. Americans are hurting. They need action today.
Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his website at www.kyl.senate.gov or his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/senjonkyl.