Employment Situation Unchanged, and That's Bad.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its latest jobs report: Unemployment has notched up to 9.8 percent after the private sector gained some 37,000 jobs, a disappointing total considering we need to see monthly gains in the hundreds of thousands to start digging the country out of its unemployment hole any time soon. The most important labor statistic, the U-6 total unemployed, which includes folks who have given up finding jobs and those working part-time due to the economy, remains at 17 percent. Maybe the saddest fact? There are now 1.3 million discouraged workers, up nearly half a million from last year, who have given up on looking for jobs.

It's probably no surprise that they feel that way -- there hasn't been much job creation, in large part because we haven't seen more fiscal stimulus from Congress, which everyone from economists to the Republican chair of the Federal Reserve thinks is necessary -- even the president's centrist fiscal commission recommends such a path, including the endorsement of Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, for goodness' sake.

Hey, at least consumer spending has gone up before the holidays -- woo Cyber Monday -- which optimists can hope will bear out a growth in demand as people move closer toward shedding their debt and regain some confidence in the economy.

-- Tim Fernholz

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