If you have been following the national news outlets you probably have heard that the recession is over but if it is, why aren't we celebrating? It's probably because there is still so much unemployment.
If you're a Democrat, news that the recession ended in June of 2009 was much welcome. But if you're not a Dem, disconnect between the end of the recession and the fact that unemployment is still hovering around 9.6 percent (and above 10 percent in Attleboro) is good reason for people to disregard official statistics on the recession.
Here is the unfortunate reality that is bad for Dems and Repubs - even after a recession ends, it takes a while for unemployment to return.
The mechanics of it include letting money flow through our economy and getting people to buy enough stuff so that the spending eventually turns back into the need for more employees to make and sell more stuff, whatever it is. The first half has happened but the second half hasn't happened, yet.
So, does this mean that Obama's $787 billion Stimulus didn't work?
I've opined in this paper before that the Stimulus lacks meaningful outcome measures as it applies to job creation . This issue is something that I have also recently discussed with (among others who agree), an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. But the idea that unemployment hasn't decreased is not to say that the Stimulus isn't working, that it was a bad idea, or that it hasn't staved off a lot of job loss; these are all different, albeit, related issues. The news magazine "The Economist" wrote on Sept. 18 that "the notion that high joblessness 'proves' that the stimulus failed is simply wrong."
After the magnitude of the crisis we just had - the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression - a long slow recovery is to be expected but it is not reason for pessimism. What we see is that negative growth has stopped but it hasn't translated into growth in jobs, yet. But this is hardly surprising; when researchers look at the various recessions that have occurred throughout the world over the last 30 years, job growth virtually always came some time after the end of a recession.
There is an obvious political dimension to this issue. Repubs are looking to take back the House of Representatives this November - maybe it is a good thing, maybe not. Dems are looking to keep their majority and are on the defensive. Meanwhile, neither side is coming up with new or original ways to address unemployment.
Repubs are on the attack chanting at the top of their lungs "tax cuts less spending" - trickle-down economics is not always as effective as Repubs care to admit. Dems seem to be saying "wait be patient," which is not very comforting to the unemployed or a good strategy. Addressing the housing mess would make it easier for people to move where jobs are, and payroll tax cuts and credits to reduce the cost of hiring would help create jobs, writes "The Economist."
Dem strategy did all it could to reverse the worst economic crisis in the world since the Great Depression, and did so successfully. But don't think I'm giving Dems a pass: its past time Dems turn the majority of their attention to jobs and take unemployment more seriously than they did passing healthcare legislation. Dems wasted a lot of time and energy as it applies to unemployment and spent too much political capital on healthcare which could be used working with Repubs on unemployment. Considering that unemployment isn't the only problem in need of remedy, rightly or wrongly, the American public is disenchanted with Dems for not focusing more on unemployment.
As the November elections approach, it's wishful thinking to assume that neither Repubs nor Dems will play politics with unemployment. Meanwhile, we'll all be sitting back wondering if unemployment will ever be less than 5 percent again.
PAUL HEROUX of Attleboro holds a master's from the London School of Economics and is a candidate for a master's in public administration at Harvard University's JFK School of Government.