Given the serious fiscal issues dead ahead, this country is lucky the economy is generating any new jobs at all.
The good news — and it's not very good — is that the U.S. economy created 80,000 new jobs in June. The bad news is that the economy needs to generate 125,000 jobs each month just to keep up with the new entrants into the American workforce.
So it's one step forward and one step backward in our lagging recovery, where unemployment remains at 8.2 percent nationwide for June. In Illinois, May unemployment numbers showed a rate of 8.6 percent, way too high but still better than the 9.1 percent in February and 8.8 percent in March.
So where do we go from here? According to one expert, Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist from the Economic Outlook Group, nowhere.
He said the "economy is close to shutting down until we get a better sense of what's going to happen over the course of the next year."
What he means is that the economic uncertainty, caused by the mess in European financial markets and uneasiness at home over U.S. economic policies, has entrepreneurs, businesses and investors so nervous that they're holding on to their money to see what happens.
The American economy continues to struggle to recover from the brutal recession caused by the collapse of the real estate market and the near-collapse of the banking system in 2008-09. The real danger now is not that the economy will continue to grow slowly but that it will fall back into recession.
There is not much this country can do about Europe's problems. The European Union created them, and only the European Union can solve them.
But this country's political class — the president and Congress — are responsible for the economic policies that have resulted in uncertainty here at home.
President Barack Obama has indicated that he plans to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on Jan. 1, a move that will pull many millions of dollars out of the U.S. economy and adversely affect economic growth. Members of Congress have indicated they prefer a different approach, and the longer it takes to settle the issue, the longer it will take to get the economy moving in a more robust fashion.
The second problem, which is unavoidable at this point following the U.S. Supreme Court's affirmance of the Affordable Care Act, is the undetermined effect of Obama's hugely expensive health care program.
Most employers have no idea what it will cost them. Until they do, they're going to be reluctant to do more hiring.
Those national problems are compounded in Illinois, where state government is broke and state policies are hardly friendly to business.
It's impossible to have a growing economy when consumers are nervous about spending, when employers are reluctant to hire, when everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But that's what we have now, and what we'll have for a while — and the longer the skittishness lasts, the more people will be hurt.