Economic Outlook: Who needs this?

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Sept. 13, 2012 at 10:05 AM
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If this is a recovery, let's pose a serious question: Who needs it?

The U.S. Census Bureau suggested that most of the middle class could live without the so-called recovery, which officially began in June 2009 after a recession that officially started in December 2007.

All that seems long ago, but the recovery has barely made a dent in the 7.5 million jobs that evaporated during downturn.

One set of data said the economy had reclaimed 3.6 million jobs since the employment low of February 2010, but that it was still 10 million jobs behind where it needed to be, given the jobs lost in the recession and the 4.7 million workers that had entered the workforce in what was then 26 months of a recovery.

That set of data came from April of this year.

In more current data, the Census Bureau said that the median income for the middle class had fallen for the second consecutive year in 2011, dropping 1.5 percent from 2010 to 2011.

If the middle class could do without the recovery, what about the nation's poorest citizens?

It hasn't done them any favors, either.

Although the difference in the poverty rate between 2010 and 2010 was negligible, the year of stasis comes after three consecutive years of increases. That makes it four years without any improvement in the poverty rate.

In so many words, even this paltry recovery is finding a way to leave millions behind.

The official poverty rate in 2011 was 15 percent with 46.2 million people in poverty, the bureau said.

If poverty rate sounds like jargon, put a face on it. The poverty rate is defined as a family of four with earnings of $23,021 or less.

By statistics alone, the top 1 percent of wage earners in the nation have done well for themselves of late. The Economic Policy Institute said the median income among the richest 1 percent of the country in 2010 was 288 times that of the median income of everyone else.

By comparison, in 1962, the top 1 percent were only 125 times as rich as the median household.

Somewhere in there a point seems lost. It seems to belittle complaints about the recovery to point to 1 percent of U.S. households and imply that all that new wealth could have been spread around and created 7.5 million more jobs or lifted every family of four out of poverty.

But "The State of Working America, 12th Edition," published by the Economic Policy Institute this week said the middle class is dancing as hard as it can and not keeping up and that the wealthy are absorbing all the new wealth.

"The typical American family has added hundreds of extra hours of work each year, while also earning better education credentials, yet is still struggling to keep up," the think tank said.

Back to the job scene, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said this week there were 12.8 million workers looking for jobs, which put the job seekers to job openings ratio at 3.5 to 1.

That means, "there are simply no jobs for two out of three unemployed workers," the EPI said.

If that's a recovery, who needs it?

In international markets the Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.39 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China fell 0.76 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong shed 0.14 percent, while the Sensex in India added 0.12 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gave up 0.5 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain added 0.22 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany gave up 0.4 percent. The CAC 40 in France dropped 1.01 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 slid 0.33 percent.

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