Also, concerns about health insurance costs, once Obamacare is fully implemented, are discouraging employers. Mandated services raise costs and regardless of their merits, make adding employees more expensive at a time of great stress for most businesses.
The financial crisis in Europe and mounting problems in China's economy worry U.S. businesses about a second major recession and discourage new hiring. The U.S. economy continues to expand at a torturously slow pace, and is quite vulnerable to shock waves from crises in Europe and Asia.
Factoring in those discouraged adults and others working part time for lack of full time opportunities, the unemployment rate is 14.7%.
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 13.6 million jobs over the next three years -- about 377,000 each month -- to bring unemployment down to 6%. Growth in the range of 4% to 5% is necessary to accomplish that. It is simply not true, as President Obama claimed in his Democratic nomination acceptance speech, that the economy faces changes more daunting than any time since the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan inherited a similarly troubled economy, with unemployment peaking at 10.8% in November 1982. President Reagan put in place a very different set of stimulus measures -- emphasizing private sector leadership -- and when he faced the voters in 1984 the jobless rate had fallen to 7.3%. During his recovery, GDP growth was averaging a brisk 6.3% in contrast to President Obama's 2.2%. 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 -- 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. Prompt efforts to produce more domestic oil, redress the trade imbalance with China, relax burdensome business regulations, and curb health care mandates and costs, would create 5 million to 10 million new jobs and lower unemployment to about 5%. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.