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Good news for the US jobless rate

By the time you read this, some anti-administration spin doctor will have concluded that the improving U.S. unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is all smoke and mirrors.

They will claim that there are people who dropped out of the job market for reasons that range from re-education (true), to retirement (true), to sheer boredom at not finding a job after a year or more (true).

However, those people dropping in and out of the job market happen all the time, and three independent research firms (two of them hardly pro-administration) estimate that the in and out are about the normal — that is to say, they balance each other out. So, at 8.5 percent, America seems to be getting back to work.

Where are those new jobs? Worryingly, a lot of them are in retail over Christmas, and you know what that means — many of those jobs will evaporate this month. “Not so,” say Walmart and Target, who claim those employees (at low wages, to be sure) are there to stay. The rest of the jobs are in the manufacturing industry, mainly U.S.-made cars and auto parts. And the warehouse industry and transportation saw an uptick as well. The medical sector saw another year-on-year increase in employment, which is both good news and bad as insurance rates are sure to continue their upward trend.

In 2011, our economy found jobs for 1.9 million Americans. That is good news by any measure. “Measured against what?” you may ask. Let’s take a look at Europe. Instead of our 8.5 percent unemployed, Europe’s euro currency zone as a whole has unemployment running at 10.3 percent. That’s 16.3 million people out of work.

And if that figure is not worrying enough, let’s break it down a bit. Austria is doing really well at 4 percent, but Spain is in big trouble at 22 percent unemployed. That’s approaching Great Depression rates. If you throw in all the EU countries, including Sweden and the U.K. (where they do not use the euro), the unemployment rate is hovering around 9.9 percent — a level that people said could cause America to throw out the president.

And what about poor Japan with such a terrible year? They have gotten back to work in a hurry, with only 4.5 percent unemployed. After the tsunami and earthquakes, they were momentarily at 8 percent unemployed, but that quickly changed with a find-a-way-back-to-work ethic.

India, on the other hand, is in lockstep with Europe at 10.8 percent unemployed, although reporting agencies are quick to point out that those figures may be off by as much as 15 percent (meaning unemployment is anywhere from 9.2 percent to 12.4 percent).

China, that bastion of work ethic (which people say is beginning to erode in a new consumer-driven society), reports only 4.3 percent unemployment. It does not include “agricultural seasonal employment,” so the actual number may be higher.

Where does that leave us? Clearly we’re not at the top of the least unemployed list. Switzerland leads that with zero unemployment. Yes, zero. But we’re doing better, working better.

As winter changes to spring, the agricultural industry will hire on loads of people — hopefully Americans — which should alleviate the bounce from those getting laid off as Christmas retail stores cut back. And the “Buy American” campaign seems to be making some headway here, too.

Overall, the news is looking brighter, particularly if those driving the election machines could, for the sake of America, try and be realistic instead of spinning America back into a recession just to get elected.

The world economy is still on a knife’s edge, and now is not the time to play political mumblety-peg with the future of all Americans.

A former Amenia Union resident, Peter Riva now resides in New Mexico.

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