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It’s not a recession. But the jobs report is still awful.

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The fact that the U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in September can only be counted as “good” news when compared against expectations. Markets were expecting to hear that we were in the throes of a double-dip recession, and when it turned out we actually had piddling job growth, stocks rallied joyfully. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is still piddling job growth — just barely enough to keep up with increases in the population. (The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent.)

One big thing to note here is that government layoffs continue to act as a drag on the recovery. Governments at all level lost 34,000 jobs on net, including 5,000 at the U.S. Postal Service. Local governments laid off 35,000 workers. The public sector keeps getting smaller and smaller — the U.S. economy has now lost 535,000 government jobs since September 2008 — which has done a lot to offset gains in the private sector.

In some ways, this is a conservative vision of what a recovery should look like. And it doesn’t seem to be working. As Isaac Shapiro and Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute have found, the rate of private-sector job growth during this recovery has actually been comparable to that after the 1990 and 2001 recessions. What makes the current recovery different is that, unlike after past recessions, the unemployment rate is getting battered by government layoffs this time around.

Meanwhile, as Felix Salmon notes, one of the most alarming trends is the rise of the long-term unemployed. These are the workers who have the hardest time finding new jobs — employers are often loath to hire people who have been out of work for so long — and there are now 6.24 million of them, up by 208,000. And the worst part, Salmon notes, is that even if Obama’s jobs bill was passed in full, the long-term unemployed would still be hard to reach and put back to work.

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