By David Meier, DailyFinance


By DailyFinance ( DailyFinance) -- Zero. Zilch. Nada. That's the number of jobs created in August 2011.

By itself, it's just a single data point. And while the U.S.'s gloomy employment situation is distressing, that figure alone is no reason to hit the panic button.

Does that mean our economy is on the mend -- or at least that we've hit the bottom and there's nowhere to go but up? Hardly.

In fact, we've got a four-alarm economic fire burning: Take the employment situation, add the state of consumer confidence, and top it off with Wall Street skittishness, and all signs point to trouble ahead.

Who Says We're Heading into Recession, Act II?
Not Ben Bernanke. In his Jackson Hole speech, he said, "I expect the economy to continue to expand in the second half of this year, albeit at a relatively modest pace." That's a whole lot of nothing, but what else is our Federal Reserve chairman going to say? He can't say we're heading for a recession. We have to look at the data and make up our own minds.

So we turn to the professionals that dissect the economy's every twitch and flutter. Of course, these are the same economists who believed economic growth would pick up during the second half of 2010. Yet growth slowed down.
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Then they tweaked the timeline and announced that the first half of 2011 was when things would really start rocking again. Really? The government recently revised its first- and second-quarter annualized growth to 0.4% and 1%, respectively. Those aren't exactly on up-tempo beats.

Now we're told that economic growth will strengthen as we head into 2012. I'm beginning to wonder if economists are looking at the same stats I'm seeing.

The Writing's on the Wall
Despite being one of the best systems in the world, the U.S. economy is not poised for rapid growth anytime soon. In fact, the signs are stronger than ever that we're heading into Recession, Act II. Here are three reasons why.
  • 1. It's the jobs, stupid.
  • Let's start with the stunningly awful jobs report in August.

    Persistent, high unemployment is a big problem. Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, summed the situation up perfectly for CNN Money by saying, "When employment drops, incomes fall. When income falls, sales fall. When sales fall, production falls. When production falls, employment falls."