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I’m not alone in suspecting the real unemployment rate is probably double the official number. When you take into account population growth, part-time and less than full-time workers, and those who stopped drawing jobless benefits, a rate of more than 16 percent doesn’t seem outrageous. But then came the recent data from the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University. It includes all this plus those drawing Social Security early and those in prison, yielding a de facto jobless rate that’s beyond my reckoning—more than 28 percent. Jobs are central to this year’s presidential election. Republican Mitt Romney would like the recession to last just a little bit longer so he can blame it on President Barack Obama. Obama would like to see numbers—any numbers—that suggest an improved outlook. Right now, both are getting what they want, while the rest of us are stuck with mixed signals. I’d prefer public officials see the truth and then take appropriate action. Obama knew his counter-cyclical measures were too small, but feared anything more than $800 billion would engage his political opponents. Well, he got that anyway. One wonders what would have happened if he had known what the Center for Working Class Studies knows. Then again, no politician has ever taken the working class seriously.

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