8.254%: The Boring and Tragic Sameness of This and Every Jobs Report

The economy added an estimated 163,000 net new jobs in July, bringing the three-month average to about 100,000, which is enough to ensure that our unemployment rate stays the same for the next, say, 30 years.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up by a tenth of a percentage point to 8.3%. Actually, the rate ticked up to 8.254%, which is rounded up to 8.3% on the third decimal.

This is sort of a nice metaphor for the economy, I think. Economic analysts and politicians are screaming about upticks and down-ticks -- Romney called the report a "hammer blow" to families -- but the underlying picture is relentlessly, boringly, tragically, the same. Things are getting better, decimal by decimal, but not fast enough. Manufacturing is growing. Food and services are adding low-wage jobs. Total government is shrinking. Meanwhile, in Washington, there is nothing resembling even the broadest definition of urgency.

If this is all sounding familiar, it's because you're paying attention. In 2011, the unemployment rate didn't change between January and July, and we averaged 150k new jobs per month. In 2012 ... the unemployment rate didn't change between January and July. and we averaged 150k new jobs per month. Maybe there's a seasonal adjustment quirk with the numbers. Maybe things really are getting better at an imperceptibly slow pace. Those things aren't mutually exclusive.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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