Putting aside the usual media distortions (there are always lines at job fairs, in good times and bad), yesterday's meet-and greets did provide some insight into the stunning breadth of the employment problem. These weren't just teenagers looking for a cashier's position at Wendy's. Many of them were breadwinners who had been holding solid professional jobs - and who are now struggling to hold on. In other words, it could happen to anybody. From the LAT's Sandy Banks:
I weaved through a queue that stretched for blocks, asking how they felt and why they had come. One woman seemed to sum it up best: "To fill out applications, leave our resumes and let them know we're hungry." Hungry in a literal way, for some -- those who have been out of work so long, they need food banks and donated clothes to get by. But I sensed a different kind of hunger in the crowd too -- a need for reassurance that, as a preacher would promise from the pulpit that morning, "You are not going to stay down!" It was impossible to stand among these folks and not feel profoundly grateful for a job that, most days, I enjoy. I could feel desperation vibrating from the crowd like heat waves from a sun-scorched sidewalk. And it packed an unexpected emotional wallop. I felt heartsick contemplating all that wasted wisdom and potential -- multiplied city to city, so many times over -- in a nation that can't afford to discard it.
I honestly don't know what's to become of these folks. The various jobs proposals you're hearing about would have only a marginal impact on the economy - and that's assuming they'll be able to get through Congress. Another stimulus plan is out of the question politically (and I'm not even sure if would be all that effective). Government jobs are being reduced by the boatload, so that's not the answer. About the best prospect - and it's not a great one - is a slow, choppy, organically-driven recovery that's nudged along with Federal Reserve monetary adjustments, but which could easily drag out for several years. Not something you would want to be campaigning on. But that's where it's at, I'm afraid.
The Office of Management and Budget said in a new report that it now expects the economy to grow at a 1.7% rate this year, down from its 2.7% forecast in February, when President Obama delivered his 2012 budget proposal to Congress. Growth is expected to be 2.6% next year and 3.5% in 2013. Despite the downward revisions, "we are not forecasting a double-dip recession," said Katharine Abraham, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. In terms of unemployment, OMB said that it still expects the jobless rate -- currently 9.1% -- to gradually come down. For 2011, it forecast the rate will stay at 9.1%. But the pace of decline is now expected to be more gradual, and the unemployment rate won't fall below 6% until 2017. In February, OMB said that barrier would be broken two years earlier.