Feeling Better Yet?

Some days I feel optimistic about the economy, and others I suffer a sinking sense that we're in for a very long haul. Today, at my breakfast table, I met both in one newspaper. From the New York Times, a pair of headlines:

Poll Finds New Optimism on Economy Since Inauguration, in which we learn that 20 percent of Americans surveyed think things are getting better — up from 7 percent in January;

Economy Falling Years Behind Full Speed, in which we learn that in the last recession of this scale, 1981-82, the U.S. took seven years to regain all the ground lost.

It's the last part that sticks with me, I guess. We've been hearing it most directly from economist Howard Rosen, who says he's worried about what happens after the downturn levels out or reverses. Will we see a jobless recovery, as we did in after the 2001 recession? For Rosen, the sheer scale of unemployment — and underemployment — matters.

In a note to us Monday, Rosen took a look at the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He writes:

BLS reported that there were 140.9 million people employed and 13.2 million unemployed in March. They calculate that the size of the labor force is thus 154 million. BLS also reported that 81 million people were "not in the labor force." We do not know anything else about these people.

BLS reports that in agriculture, there are 1.2 million salaried workers and 875,000 self-employed workers.

In non-agriculture (manufacturing and services) BLS reports129.5 million salaried workers and 9.2 million self-employed.

We're up to 10 million self-employed.

As I have mentioned in the past, BLS reports that 9 million people are working part-time for "economic reasons." Another 18.8 million people work part-time by choice.

Finally, 7.7 million workers hold more than one job.

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