The unemployment rate didn't change much from July to August, with 7.3 percent of Americans unemployed for the month of August, and 169,000 jobs added in the month. The numbers may be improving a bit, down from 8.1 percent unemployment a year ago, but it's happening slowly. And there's no reason to expect Washington to step in and speed things up.
Since 2009, Congress hasn't passed major legislation aimed at helping to shrink the nation's massive pool of unemployed. Even without any outside events, there isn't much reason to think now would be any different. But, as it turns out, Congress faces a massive number of obstacles before even thinking about jobs.
First and foremost is Syria. When Congress comes back in session next week from its summer break, the first order of business will be figuring out whether to authorize the Obama administration's request for the use of force in Syria. As the last week has shown, that'll be anything but easy. For all the platitudes from members about how this is one of the most difficult decisions they'll ever have to make, well, right now it's actually kind of looking that way.
Congress doesn't get a reprieve after Syria. The current fiscal year ends on September 30, at which point Congress will need to pass a new budget or temporary funding to keep the government from shutting down. Some Republicans say they won't support any new money without defunding Obamacare, which could just complicate that task further. Then there's the debt ceiling, expected to be hit around mid-October. That's another spot where, if Congress doesn't act, the government could shut down.
Oh, and remember immigration reform? The 11 million-plus undocumented immigrants in the United States surely do. The House still has a huge amount of work to do on comprehensive reform if anything is going to pass through Congress this year.
So is there a place for action on jobs here? Probably not. All of these issues, from Syria to the budget, are likely to be not only time-consuming but also divisive. Congress looks set to run through a series of fast-moving crises this autumn. It's hard to see any way the 7.3 percent unemployment rate will get much of a look.
What's the Big Deal About the August Jobs Number?
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