The weekly news on initial claims – up 16,000 to a two-month high of 360,000 – is one part of the economic picture and may be a short term glitch. Still, the overall employment picture is not reassuring. Such jobs as are available tend to be part time. Far too many people have simply dropped out of the work force and quit even looking for jobs.
And if the jobs picture is not encouraging, the news on wages isn't any better. As Tyler Cowen writes at Marginal Revolution:
Averaged across all occupations ... real median wages declined by 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012. This is a striking decline, given that productivity increased by 4.5 percent over this same time period ...
The demoralization of the workforce and the spitefulness of the political conversation are not unrelated. A little economic growth (say 3 percent in GDP) and improvement in the unemployment numbers (unexpected of course) would make the other difficulties, like immigration and health care, seems so much more surmountable.