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Americans can't ignore Europe's jobless mess

October 31, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • Job seekers Sandra Lopez, left, and Manuel Lopez, second from left, wait in line with their son Manuel Lopez Jr. to speak with a Schlumberger Ltd. representative at the Rigzone Oil & Gas Career Fair in San Antonio last week.
Job seekers Sandra Lopez, left, and Manuel Lopez, second from left, wait… (Eddie Seal / Bloomberg )

Question: How many people are out of work in the United States?

Answer: Not as many as in Europe.

We won’t know the real answer to that question until Friday, when the U.S. government is expected to announce the latest jobless numbers. We do know that at last count, the U.S. unemployment rate was officially 7.8%, which was a 3 1/2-year low.

But according to the official European Union statistics agency Eurostat, the jobless rate for September in the Eurozone nations was 11.6%, or 18.5 million people.   That’s the highest rate in at least 17 years and compares to a rate of under 7.5% in early 2008.

Which, of course, means either that Americans should count themselves lucky -- or that this is just the calm before the storm. 

Despite polls showing that Americans are turning isolationalist, when it comes to economic matters, that’s just not possible in today’s world.

Take U.S. automakers as an example: Ford recently reported a third-quarter operating profit of $2.3 billion for its U.S. operations, but in Europe, it saw losses of $468 million. At General Motors, it was the same:  It lost $478 million in Europe in the third quarter, compared with a profit of $1.8 billion in the U.S. during the period.

So like it or not,  what happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe. And it makes information such as this truly troubling:

Spain’s 25.8% jobless rate and Greece’s 25.1% figure were again at the top of the scale for European Union members…. The hordes of unemployed youth continue to worry authorities. In September, 3.5 million workers under age 25 were without jobs in the euro area, up by 275,000 people from a year earlier.  That’s a 23.3% unemployment rate. In Greece, nearly 56% of all youth are out of work.

Oh boy. And parents here think it's tough for their teenagers to find work!

But conservatives can rail all they want about Europe’s failed socialist states and how they’re reaping what they sow. That horse is out of the barn. When one-quarter to one-half of your young people are out of work, you’ve got trouble.

And regardless of what the U.S. jobless report Friday shows -- and frankly, regardless of who wins on Tuesday -- we already know this: We may be better off than they are, but when Europe’s got trouble, we’ve got trouble too.

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