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Otis Sanford: The unemployment rate is somewhat misleading

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  When it comes to jobs, Memphis has a lot in common other parts of the nation. Unemployment has dropped to numbers not seen in more than two decades. So why isn't everyone jumping for joy or planning a parade?

It's because the 3.8 percent unemployment rate in October for the nine county Greater Memphis area is somewhat misleading.

For one thing, many of those jobs are part-time, the wages are relatively low and they include few, if any, health benefits. Plus, if you only count the city of Memphis, the October jobless rate is just over four percent, according to labor statistics.

Still, these numbers are impressive. They reflect an undisputed fact that more people are landing jobs even if they are part time and don't pay much. The last time unemployment was this low in Greater Memphis was in the 1990s when the national economy was humming.

We may not have the economic confidence now that we had then - but there is no doubt we are making progress pulling ourselves out of the recession that started in 2008.

But while politicians rush to take credit for the recovery, the issues of poverty, crime and low educational achievement remain a three-tier drag on Memphis. Until we make real headway attacking those problems, we cannot pat ourselves on the back even as more people are going back to work.