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Half full or half empty?

Rodney JalecoBy Rodney Jaleco

Over 750,000 new American jobs were created since the start of the year, defying expectations, but the US unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent.

The degree of optimism that the US economy is recovering varies depending on where you stand. Some analysts believe the unemployment rate will show little change despite the job growth because more unemployed Americans are going back to look for work.

President Obama’s supporters will tout that as evidence his recovery plan is working. The Republicans will point to the millions still without jobs and promise that they can do a better job of growing back the economy.

This will certainly be one of the central themes in this year’s elections. Filipino American voters will face the same question and answer for themselves whether President Obama’s glass is half full or half empty.

The Labor Department said 227,000 new jobs were added in February; it adjusted upward the January report to show 284,000 jobs were created on top of the 223,000 jobs in December.

ABC News quoted Stephen Bronars, senior economist with Welch Consulting, saying his bigger concern is the ranks of less-educated long-term unemployed who may be more difficult to absorb back to the workforce.

Over 5 million Americans have been out of jobs for 6 months or longer.

Most of the new jobs were in professional, technical, education and health services. Job growth in the construction and manufacturing sectors appeared disappointing.  A significant part of the growth was fueled by temp jobs.

Many believe the unemployment rate will continue to hover near 8 percent even way past Election Day along and coupled with the possibility of $5 gasoline that could be a volatile mix. Still, pundits say these numbers are not as important as how voters feel as November rolls in, whether they have confidence “things are getting better”. It’s all going to boil down to expectation and perception.

That seems to be the same predicament the Aquino administration with the US government. The Philippines is in so many American “watch lists” than it probably cares. From human rights to corruption to intellectual piracy, the country remains a source of worry for authorities here despite well-publicized campaigns to address these concerns.

The office of the US Trade Representative sees the Philippines as a haven for counterfeiters and that will surely impact on recent initiatives including the SAVE Act lobby and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership that generate millions of new jobs for Filipinos.

In many instances, the Philippines already has the laws to deal with these issues. The problem is enforcement; very few culprits are actually convicted and punished, building on the perception that Aquino administration is doing nothing.

Long on words and short on action is a terrible cocktail that could spell disaster for a leader, be he running for re-election or someone trying to convince the world he means business.

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