Factoring in those discouraged adults and others working part time for lack of full-time opportunities, the unemployment rate is 15%.
Prospects for substantially lowering the headline unemployment rate are slim because so many folks who left the labor force would likely return if economic conditions improved.
The economy would have to add about 13.3 million jobs over the next three years -- about 370,000 each month -- to bring unemployment down to 6%. Growth in the range of 4% to 5% is necessary to accomplish that.
Growth is weak and jobs are in jeopardy because temporary tax cuts, stimulus spending, large federal deficits, expensive but ineffective business regulations, and costly health care mandates do not address structural problems holding back dynamic growth and jobs creation -- namely, the huge trade deficit and dysfunctional energy policies.
Oil and trade with China account for nearly the entire $600 billion trade deficit. Dollars sent abroad that do not return to purchase U.S. exports are lost purchasing power. Consequently, the U.S. economy is expanding at 2% a year instead of the 5% pace that is possible after emerging from a deep recession and with such high unemployment.
Without prompt efforts to produce more domestic oil, redress the trade imbalance with China, relax burdensome business regulations and curb health care mandates and costs, the U.S. economy cannot grow and create enough jobs.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.