President Obama thinks that the improving economy will win him a second term, the New York Times reports today. Whatever he’s drinking, order me a double. His poll numbers look a little better because the Republicans have spent the past several months in a fratricidal bloodbath. Fortunately, the memory of the American electorate for such antics is short. Once we choose a candidate (and I am happy with Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich) and unite behind him, we will win, unless, of course, we find a way to sabotage ourselves.

People are hurting, and badly. The official unemployment rate may have fallen, slightly, but the real unemployment rate — the number of working-age Americans who aren’t working — rose from about 12% before the 2008 crisis, to about 23%, and hasn’t come down. That includes people who have retired early because they can’t find work, spouses who used to earn a second income but have gone back to homemaking because work isn’t available, self-employed people whose businesses have collapsed, young people who live in their parents’ basement because they can’t afford tuition and can’t find work. The chart below, courtesy of the Shadow Government Statistics website, shows (in the blue line labelled “SGS alternative”) the way unemployment feels to Americans: one in four Americans who could be working, isn’t. That’s roughly twice the pre-recession level.



Another way to gauge the pain factor is the so-called Civilian Employment-Population Ratio. Prior to the recession, nearly 65 percent of working-age Americans (not in the military or in prison) had jobs. Now it’s down to 58%. The difference is 16 million people who should be working, but aren’t — about the same as the entire working-age population of Australia. The slight increase in employment during the past few months barely tracks the natural increase in population.

Graph of Civilian Employment-Population Ratio