Unemployment. Last month it reached the "double digits": 10.1 per cent of the American labor force is out of work; more than 11 million people are without jobs. For black Americans the unemployment figure is double: 20.2 per cent. For black teenagers that figure is an astronomical 48.5 per cent.
Predictably, the Republicans rose to defend themselves, while the Democrats rushed to attack. The Reagan administration insisted that the economy is in the "recovery stage," despite the highest unemployment figures in 42 years. The Democrats, under whose reign unemployment also rose, now intend to make it a key campaign issue. They probably will be successful.
The administration insists that things are getting better for most Americans and that high unemployment rates are an unfortunate cost of the effort to bring down both inflation and interest rates. The Democrats make it a point to say how unfair that policy is, but so far they have not come up with any real alternative to Reaganomics. Those who are without work suffer further indignity as their hardship becomes a political football thrown back and forth by two political parties, neither of which has shown much passion for justice.
The latest report is that the Reagan administration wants to start counting the military as a part of the American labor force. To consider the armed forces as employed people would bring the jobless rate below 10 per cent. Well, that's one way to lower the unemployment figures.
Some critics have suggested that this desire for a change in policy might be politically motivated. It will take more than manipulating numbers to respond to families who have lost all their security and are gradually losing all their hope.