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The face of economic recovery

Counting the Cost

Julianne Malveaux | 6/26/2014, midnight

At its June 18-19 meeting, the Federal Reserve is hedging its bets. It says the United States economy is on the mend, but more slowly than expected.

They’ve reduced their estimate for economic growth and say that it will take a year or more to get to where we were six years ago. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has offered a starker forecast. Expected growth for the United States is about 3 percent, a level considered “normal” and “in recovery.”

The Federal Reserve projected something right above two percent earlier this year. Now they say the United States economy will grow at about 1.9 percent, below robust recovery, and that it will take until 2018 to get the labor market back on track.

Meanwhile, the stock market seems to signal a healthy recovery, and surveys of human resource professionals say that more employers are offering signing and retention bonuses to get the best employees and to keep them.

Obviously the nearly 10 million people that are unemployed aren’t being offered any kind of bonuses. Most of them just want work. That’s not to mention the 3.4 million people who have not worked in half a year or more. Bonus? Please.

The economic recovery is as bifurcated as our economic reality has always been. The Occupy folks estimated it in a way that galvanized energy and spoke some truth. Does the top one percent of our population get all the benefits of economic growth? Just about.

One of the most telling statistics deals with race and recovery. Whites and Asians Americans have fully recovered from economic shortfalls, African Americans have seen their wealth rebound by only 45 percent. They have lost 55 percent of wealth, bearing a disproportionate burden from this recovery.

When we parse the data by class, we learn that President Barack Obama’s focus on the middle class leaves the poor where they have always been–at the periphery of economic progress. Until the job markets open up at entry level, instead of providing opportunities for the middle class and more, the recovery will not trickle down.

Meanwhile, there are members of Congress who truly believe that the unemployed are jobless because they want to be. These are folks who apparently refuse to read the data about the search for work.

What does economic recovery look like? It looks like vibrancy. It looks like people joyfully working. It looks like people who spend, if not freely, certainly less cautiously. They don’t have to run an algorithm in their brain before they decide that their child can have an ice cream cone. It means being able to put a few pennies aside for college possibilities. It means having a moment to exhale.

For all the talk of Wall Street exuberance and economic recovery, there are millions who are still waiting to exhale. While we mostly focus on the officially unemployed, there should be an equally pressing concern about those who are underemployed, or working part time when they want to work full time. All of these folks are in the job search mix, and they are too often the people we ignore.