Why the Continuing Bad Job Numbers Make it Harder To Pass Health-Care Reform.

The loss of 36,000 jobs in February is better than expected, but it’s still miserable: 26,000 were lost in January, according to the government’s revised figures. And the “underemployment” rate — including jobless workers who have given up looking for work and part-time workers who want full-time jobs — rose from 16.5 percent in January to 16.8 percent in February, offsetting some of January’s gains. (And don’t blame it mostly on the weather. Although the surveys on which the report is based were done in mid-February during winter snowstorms in the east, the major impact of bad weather was on hours worked, not the numbers of jobs. If you had a job in February but were snowed in, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported you as having a job.)

This complicates the president’s final push for health-care reform. With employers still shedding jobs and consumer confidence down, Americans are worried first and foremost about paying their bills. Because most people aren’t aware how much of their paychecks are being eaten up by rising health-care costs but can easily be persuaded they’ll be paying more to cover those who don’t have health insurance under any new health plan, the continuing bad news on the jobs front makes it harder for the president to make his health-care sale.

The bad news on jobs also allows economic illiterates (and scoundrels who know better) to continue to claim the stimulus is failing and what’s needed is less government rather than more, including not only a smaller “jobs bill” but less or no health-care reform.

More after the jump.

--Robert Reich

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