Some government workers in the nation's capital have no idea how good they've got it. That was demonstrated Friday when the latest economic figures showed that unemployment dropped to 7.4 percent, the lowest level since 2008. President Obama naturally hailed the dip in the jobless rate as further evidence that his policies are working, even though those policies have had five years to boost economic growth. Somebody should whisper in Obama's ear that his critics are being charitable in describing a 1.7-percent second-quarter growth rate as "anemic." Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had three- and four-percent growth rates for breakfast when they were in the White House.
No matter how often Obama spinmeisters say otherwise on the Sunday talk shows, the numbers released Friday tell the hard truth. The economy is going nowhere fast, but in the process it's dragging millions of Americans in the wrong direction. Average weekly hours on the job fell from 34.5 to 34.4, even as hourly earnings dropped two cents to $23.98. Those margins may sound insignificant in isolation but spread across the world's largest economy, it means bad news for many people.
The worst news, however, was that 200,000 people simply gave up looking for work because there are no jobs for them. These are not slackers; most of them are people who have been looking for work without success for months on end. Jobs are not being created because Obamacare is driving businesses to reduce employees from full-time to part-time, and because Obama's regulatory onslaught is forcing capital that would otherwise be available for workforce expansion to be diverted to fund compliance costs. Under Obama, the Labor Force Participation Rate, which measures job availability, has plunged to levels not seen since Jimmy Carter wrecked the economy and in the process coined a dismal new term, "stagflation."
It was against this background that a number of federal workers were heard on a Washington area all-news radio station Friday complaining about having to "endure" the "terrible tragedy" of sequestration and furloughs. Nobody should have to go without pay for a week or two, to be sure, but the melodramatic wails heard on these airwaves had a distinct air of unreality about them. According to the Congressional Budget Office, white-collar federal workers earn on average 16 percent higher total compensation than private sector workers in similar jobs. Looking at just the benefits side of the picture, CBO found a 48 percent advantage for the bureaucrats overall. For employees on hourly wages rather than salaries, the margin for the blue-collar feds is two percent.
And don't forget, these public "servants" live in the nation's most affluent area, thanks to the presence of the federal government. Seven of the nation's 10 richest counties are in the Washington region, led by Fairfax and Loudoun counties, with average household incomes in excess of $100,000 annually. Affluent bureaucrats fretting about missing a paycheck or two shouldn't expect sympathy from people beyond the Beltway who can't find jobs.