Pretty soon we will have only a few million people employed and “full employment” in this country. Well, not quite. But you get the point. The economy is creating so few jobs that millions are staying out of the labor market, thereby prevent the unemployment rate from soaring. In September we created a measly 114,000 jobs, but the rate declined to 7.8 percent.

Consider that if labor force participation had held even since January (when it was 8.3 percent), the jobless rate would be 8.4 percent. If the job participation rate were the same as when Barack Obama took office, the rate would be 10.7 percent. The broader U-6 rate (unemployed plus total employed part time for economic reasons) held steady at 14.7 percent. Obama can spin the numbers anyway he likes, but this is not an economic “recovery” in a meaningful sense. We are adding fewer jobs on average per month than we did last year (143,00 vs. 153,000).

The Romney campaign’s initial statement summed up the general reaction on the right: “This is not what a real recovery looks like. We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office. If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11%. The results of President Obama’s failed policies are staggering – 23 million Americans struggling for work, nearly one in six living in poverty and 47 million people dependent on food stamps to feed themselves and their families. The choice in this election is clear. Under President Obama, we’ll get another four years like the last four years. If I’m elected, we will have a real recovery with pro-growth policies that will create 12 million new jobs and rising incomes for everyone.”

In a similar vein, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economist and head of the American Action Forum, says: “The September jobs report shows signs of strength; we’re not falling, but not accelerating. It is still facing downside risks, generating too little income, and well behind schedule in recovering.” In short, we are going sideways at best and drifting backward into a recession (as growth grinds to a halt) at worst. The best Obama can do turns out to be about a D +.