The underemployment rate, considered by many economists to be a truer gauge of the jobless situation because it takes into account discouraged workers and those working part time when they would prefer full-time work, declined slightly to 18.3 percent last month, the Gallup polling organization reported.
Your state's pain index
Employment varies across the country. Check out your state's rate at the AARP "pain index."
Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, N.J., says that household income has not kept pace with inflation — wages are flat and retirees are earning very little in interest income with rock-bottom rates. With dwindling consumer confidence on the economic outlook, it's not likely that consumer spending will boost the recovery.
"The gridlock in Washington, as well as worries about the European debt crisis and the general sense of malaise that we could be ready to slip back into recession — this is the mood that has dominated the thinking of households and businesses," he says. "It's really quite awful.
"Wages are eroding and yet inflation has been accelerating all year, which means the cost of living for Americans has only gone higher so they can't spend as much," he adds.
Poll: Voters worried about retirement
They can't save as much, either. A poll of 800 registered voters released Thursday by the advocacy coalition Americans for Secure Retirement found that an overwhelming majority — 88 percent — were worried about their ability to maintain their standard of living in retirement.
The survey also registered significant opposition to cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, 49 percent of independents and 39 percent of Republicans said these programs cannot be cut no matter what.
"FDR would be rolling in his grave if he knew that Social Security was on the table in this debt reduction talks fiasco," says Robert Broadhurst, 54, a unionized electrical worker from Boston. He's been camping out in New York to support the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is gaining momentum around the country.