The backdrop to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight is the dire state of the labor market. The jobs deficit left from losses in 2008 and 2009 remains well over 10 million jobs; this takes into account both the 6.1 million fewer jobs we have now than we did before the recession started, and the fact that we should have added over four million jobs over that period just to keep up with normal growth in the working age population.
In December, the addition of 200,000 jobs was heralded as strong growth, but, as the figure shows, even at that rate the United States will not return to full employment until 2019. By way of comparison, to get back to full employment by the start of 2016 – four years from now – the labor market would have to add around 320,000 jobs a month. But expectations are that sustained robust job growth is at least one year away. The U.S. workforce can’t afford to wait. The ongoing crisis in the labor market calls for substantial additional fiscal stimulus to generate jobs and bring the unemployment rate down.