The recovery is still too slow with too few jobs

Job creation figures for January, released (last week), continue to present a depressing picture of prospects for the U.S. economy.

A pallid total of 113,000 jobs were created in January, on the heels of an even weaker 74,000 in December. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 percent to 6.6 percent, which is good, but it reflects more people dropping out of the labor force in the face of dim prospects.

Those new jobs do not even cover the number of new entries into the job market each month. At that rate of increase it would take years just to get back to pre-2008, pre-recession levels of employment.

Congress has not extended emergency jobless benefits, due mostly to Republican opposition. If there were any truth to some of the looney arguments in Washington for allowing the benefits to end on Dec. 28 - namely that such aid discourages the unemployed from seeking work - then more people should have been driven into the job market in January. But they were not.

The economy also has to be rattled by the fact that another government shutdown (was) threatened by another debt ceiling crisis. House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, (said it wouldn't) happen, but his leadership was demonstrated again to be weak by his admission ... that, due to opposition by tea party Republicans, immigration reform is unlikely to occur in 2014.

Meanwhile, nothing elsewhere offers much in the way of prospects for improvement of the U.S. economy. Foreign markets, in particular the "Fragile Five" - Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey - could see U.S. investment dollars retreat as the Federal Reserve reduces its program of quantitative easing. And Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, has seen its bond rating fall to junk status.

Hope in the spring (next month, officially) always reigns supreme, but it's hard to be hopeful based on this unpromising situation.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 11


Gay athlete Michael Sam offers NFL a challenge — and a chance

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam's announcement that he is gay offers both a challenge and an opportunity to the NFL — a challenge to the attitudes of the past toward gays and an opportunity to rise above them.

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told the NFL Network that a gay player "would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," and then wondered out loud how he should respond if a gay player looked at him while he was undressed.

Suffice it to say that Sam, who was an all-American at his position and is projected to be drafted in the early rounds, could be in for some pushback — and knows it.

But that's the pessimistic view. College football cultivates a hypermacho environment, too. And yet Sam apparently was accepted by his teammates after he revealed his sexual orientation to them privately last fall. "There was never an issue," he told The New York Times.

So at a time when gay equality is increasingly taken for granted, especially by the young, it may be that it simply takes someone like Sam to break the mold and expose an NFL franchise to an openly gay teammate for other players to acknowledge him for who he is.

—The Denver Post, Feb. 10