The economy is still No. 1 issue for voters

WASHINGTON — Alarmingly weak job creation, which has been the shameful hallmark of the Obama economy, went from bad to worse last month.

The nation’s employment rolls rose by a tepid 142,000 in August, the economic equivalent of a thimbleful in the world’s largest economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reduced its job number estimates for June and July by 28,000.

It was another painful reminder of the president’s anti-job, anti-growth economic policies over nearly six long years, as millions of Americans still can’t find a good, full-time job that pays a living wage.

As usual, the gloomy BLS report came and went without a serious response, or an apology, from the White House. Democratic leaders remained embarrassingly silent on the issue that is hurting the middle class, the very people they profess to care so much about.

Only this time, some powerful sectors in the national news media, who have long been sugar-coating similarly weak job reports or making excuses for them (blaming the weather or Republicans), have begun to get tough with the administration. They are no longer pulling their punches about whom the voters will hold responsible in November for the administration’s worsening economy.

“With Friday’s disappointing jobs report for August, Democrats can pretty much give up any remaining hopes that voters will shake their gloom about the economy before this fall’s midterm elections,” writes Jackie Calmes, the New York Times’ veteran Washington political reporter.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll published Tuesday said that 54 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy, with only 42 percent (the base of the Democratic Party) saying they approve.

Virtually every survey in recent years has found that the economy and jobs are the chief concerns of the American people. Last week, the George Washington University Battleground Poll reconfirmed that finding.

It also found that likely voters believe the Republicans, by a wide margin, would be far better at dealing with the economy than the Democrats — 49 percent to 42 percent.

The Post/ABC poll also found that on the question of whom will you vote for in the House elections, “the numbers are clearly favorable for the Republicans.”

The economic and political climate is now so bad for the president and his party that The New York Times has begun comparing it to the time when Jimmy Carter presided over a distressed economy that led to a severe recession. Carter’s advisers had another word: malaise.

Americans remember that President Reagan ended the recession in only two years with a soaring recovery that created huge monthly new job numbers in the 400,000 to 500,000 range and up.

Last week’s New York Times’ jobs story ran under the bluntly worded headline: “Job Growth Is Sluggish, Raising Fear of Malaise.”

Notably, the Times led with one of the most frightening parts of the jobs report that was buried or ignored by much of the news media. Its pull-no-punches lead read: “Missing: nearly three million American workers.”

The story was referring to the vast number of discouraged Americans who have given up looking for a job, shrinking the nation’s work force, but also driving down the unemployment rate because they were no longer counted among the unemployed.

Obama apologists maintain that the sharp decline in the nation’s labor force participation rate is largely due to the retirement of aging baby boomers. That is just not true.

Times reporter Nelson D. Schwartz points out that “25-to-54-year-old workers are quitting as well. Just over 81 percent of this group was in the work force last month, compared with 83.4 percent in early 2007, equivalent to the disappearance of nearly three million workers.”

According to a study of the latest BLS economic data by Barclays, “younger men in particular have given up and dropped out in large numbers,” Schwartz writes.

“Participation for this group is down to 88.8 percent, from 93 percent before the recession. … What is more, in a new development since the Great Recession, women between the ages of 45 and 54 have also begun to leave the labor force, reversing a decades-long pattern of increasing numbers entering the work force.”

As bad as all this is for the economy, and for a growing sector of involuntarily jobless Americans, an even bigger income problem plagues people with jobs; young, college-educated adults just entering the work force; and blue-collar workers.

Wages have been largely flat over the past five years of the so-called “recovery.” College graduates are now forced to take lower-paying jobs once claimed only by high school graduates, if they’re lucky. The number of factory jobs was unchanged last month and retail jobs fell by 8,400.

Other statistics are coming to the surface, as the U.S. economy shows signs of further deterioration under the Democrats.

The Gallup Poll released new statistics showing that “new businesses are in decline,” as capital investment has continued to shrink as a result of deep uncertainty over the economy and the Obama administration’s attempts to hike corporate taxes and impose new regulations on the business community.

As the November elections draw nearer, the likelihood is that the economy’s troubles will loom larger than ever. The jobs picture isn’t going to improve anytime soon, and the third-quarter economic growth rate is shaping up to be in the mediocre 2 percent range.

It’s still “the economy, stupid,” and Americans won’t be fooled this time. Obama and the Democrats are in for another shellacking.