Maybe Ben Nelson's right and the federal government should have waited on health care in order to offer more economic incentives for new jobs.

But as it is, the stimulus has not stimulated, and the jobs numbers remain very bad.

The United States unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10 percent in December, but the economy lost an additional 85,000 jobs, the Department of Labor reported this morning. The numbers were worst than expected, because many economists had anticipated job growth during the month.

Phil Klein looks deeper, at discouraged workers who have dropped out of the job search:

In addition, the labor force participation rate dropped to 64.6 percent in December from 64.9 percent in November, bringing it to the lowest level of the year...There were 929,000 discouraged workers in December who gave up looking for work because they didn't think jobs are available.

After November's slight job gain, Christina Romer calls December's numbers a "slight setback:"

The unemployment rate remained at 10.0 percent in December. This level reflected a proportional decline in the number of people unemployed and the number of people in the labor force. The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, which underscores the need for responsible actions to jumpstart private-sector job creation.

Perhaps that's what the stimulus should have been about.

The White House "hides the decline" with an iffy chart, featuring a decline in average monthly job loss per quarter.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis cites the mostly mythical "green jobs" the White House is "saving or creating:"

"We also see where people want to have a career ladder in perhaps the energy efficiency arena. So they may start out as someone who's an electrician and end up later on being the owner of a small business that actually helps to install solar panels."

In a time of 10-percent unemployment, I'd wager most voters would prefer the administration focus on plain-old, regular jobs before it counts on the great solar panel boom of 2010.

The GOP notes, in this press release, how Democrats slammed Bush on jobs creation, even during his administration's times of job growth.

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