The U.S. employment announcement last week — the overall national jobless rate down to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent the month before — might initially have struck some people as good news. Given how bad the job situation has been since the 2008 financial collapse and recession, we're sure people are hungry for something to cheer about. Unfortunately, the glow from the unemployment rate announcement doesn't survive close analysis.
The only reason the unemployment rate went down is that the number of people counted because they have applied to a job in the last month was down. Even worse, the percentage of Americans in the job pool — the workforce participation rate — is at a 31-year low. Last month, the economy created only 96,000 net jobs, which was fewer than the 125,000 economists had been predicting.
So perhaps it should be no surprise that the number of people on the Suncoast in the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — i.e., on food stamps — has reached 500,000, including 148,598 in Pinellas County and 80,827 in Pasco. According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, the growth in the number of people on food stamps in the state has actually been moderating after exploding between 2009 and 2011.
Still, by the usually cited measurements, the post-2008 recession ended in June 2009. Nearly 40 months into the economic recovery, however, things here in Florida remain economically underwhelming.