There were zero net new jobs in August. Zero. According to CNBC, this is the first time we've seen a big goose egg in 60 years. That's an ugly jobs report. Uglier than we thought. And uglier than it even looks from the headline number:
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) rose from 8.4 million to 8.8 million in August. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
At this point, there’s not much more to say than the recovery has clearly stalled. If the political system needed a reminder or an excuse that the economy is not back on track, it's got it. If any particular politician wanted a reason to cry "crisis!", it's here.
About 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in August, up from 2.4 million a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
The sanest response to this news would be for both parties to agree to Rep. John Larson’s (D-Conn.) legislation adding a significant jobs component to the supercommittee, and perhaps to even accelerate the timetable on which that part of the committee would report. Though the trends might be better than they were in early-2009, the labor market is in much worse shape, and it's clear that more action, and perhaps even big action, is desperately needed. I do not, however, expect that to be the actual response to this news.