Obamacare health insurance mandates are increasing benefits costs for full-time employees. Along with anticipated penalties for not covering all employees working more than 30 hours per week in 2015, these will cause employers to either reconfigure toward more part-time workers or to only cautiously add workers.
Strident anti-business campaigns targeting McDonald's (MCD), Wal-Mart (WMT) and other employers of lower-skilled workers add to pressures to substitute machines for workers or move to a more part-time economy in hospitality, retailing and other activities where wages are already subpar and job security nonexistent. Along with lax immigration enforcement, these exacerbate income inequality.
The situation remains particularly tough for recent college graduates and older Americans, and many working age adults have quit looking for work. Adding part-timers who want full-time employment and discouraged adults, the unemployment rate becomes 13.2%.
Stronger growth is indeed possible. Four years into the Reagan recovery, following a recession that pushed up unemployment to higher levels than President Obama faced, the economy was growing at a 4.9 % pace and creating jobs at a breakneck pace.
Still in this environment, Federal Reserve low interest rate policies and quantitative easing (monthly purchases of $85 billion of Treasury and government-agency securities) have done about as much good as can be expected. With a bit stronger growth beginning in 2014, look for the Fed to begin easing back on bond purchases.
The trade deficits on oil and manufacturing with China subtract substantially from demand for U.S. goods, services and workers. Even with the recent surge in domestic production, petroleum imports exceed exports by more than six million barrels a day, and will require lifting bans on offshore drilling to eliminate. Currency manipulation and other forms of protectionism remain problems with China, Japan and Germany -- America's principal competitors.
Addressing those problems could add nearly more than four million jobs directly and seven million jobs with the usual secondary effects, all but eliminating unemployment and substantially reducing inequality.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.