Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed today ... The median forecast of 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 365,000. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 368,000.

This sort of report is getting tediously routine, right down to the part about the missed estimates. But the dreary predictability of continued long-term unemployment doesn't lessen the human misery abstracted by those numbers. Americans need to work and not merely to pay the bills. They define themselves by their work and take pride in their work and in doing a good job. "I can outwork anyone," is a common American boast. John Henry vowed he could drive more steel than a steam engine and he "died with a hammer in his hand." The government can hand out unemployment checks but even if they cover the bills, it isn't the same.

The 8.3 percent unemployment figure is not merely unacceptable, it is misleading. Things are worse than that number would have one believe. If "labor force participation" had remained as high as it had been when President Obama took office, then the unemployment rate would be 11 percent. The lower figure conceals a magnitude of demoralization and the prospects are for things to get worse.

The Obama campaign and its allies in the media look upon the economy as a kind of unpredictable force of nature with various outfits in Washington – the Fed, the CBO, the BLS – following it in the way it the way the NOAA is tracking that storm that threatens to ruin the Republican's convention plans. ‘More unemployment? What a surprise. Well, you know, stuff happens.’

Washington either can or cannot do something about the economy and the pall of unemployment. If it can't, then it needs to say so and let things work themselves out according the laws of laisez faire economics. If it can, then it is clear that the current plan – whatever it might be – has failed. And for voters to draw the appropriate conclusions.

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