Last month the unemployment rate dipped below the eight percent mark for the first in 2012 - much to the delight of media pundits and President Obama's Administration.  We can all agree that the most important fix for our economy is more jobs and that meaningful declines in the unemployment rate are comforting proxies. However, the unemployment rate can be misleading when viewed in the abstract. A closer look at the employment report paints a very different picture and begs the questions - how bad do things need to get before economic development becomes a priority in this country?

The headline figures from last month's September Employment Situation Report were a 0.3 percent drop in unemployment and a 7.8 percent unemployment rate; I would offer a different set of numbers that paint a dissimilar picture.  The number of persons not in the labor force increased 3.1 percent year-over-year last month.  The number of persons not in the labor force who want a job increased 8.4 percent year-over-year, and the participation rate has sustained decade lows in every month of this year, including September.

Before we jump the gun again in looking at October's job market, we have to get to the bottom of these numbers.  When you take a closer look at more inclusive estimates, it is clear that our economy still needs to generate more jobs.

On Friday, November 2, 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the much-anticipated Employment Situation Report detailing October's job numbers. Last month's report brought claims that a considerable recovery was finally underway with the unemployment rate dropping below eight percent, but more inclusive estimates paint a different picture and encompass some of the lasting effects of the recession.

Moreover, forecasts predict that the economy will only add around 125,000 new jobs, which barely keeps up with the number of new entrants added to workforce population every month.  The ADP Employment Report did show the job market performing better than expected, but only reported minimal declines in jobless claims at about one percent. Notably, job cut announcements jumped 41 percent in October to the highest level in five months.

Historically low participation rates and the exit of disenchanted workers from the labor force have helped to push down the unemployment rate, perhaps even to deceivingly low levels.

The participation rate has been at the lowest levels seen in over a decade in the past three years and has continued to decline to lower rates all year.  The participation rate has remained at 63 percent throughout 2012, compared to six years of rates above 66 percent from 2002 to 2006.

Even though the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in September last year, the number of persons who have left the labor force, but still want a job grew by nearly ten percent, and the population outside of the labor force has grown more than three percent in the last year.

Both President Obama and Republican Nominee Romney have plans to address the lingering jobs deficit.  Romney's plan calls for tax reform and tax cuts, in addition to reduced government spending and regulation. Romney's plan also includes efforts to retain American workers and solidify their education and workplace skills. President Obama's economic recovery plan includes eliminating tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs, maintaining new financial regulations, and tax increases for the top tax bracket. President Obama has also put forth a budget-balancing plan that includes investments in education, manufacturing and infrastructure.

I would urge both candidates to also revisit one of the unsung heroes of the U.S. economy - the housing market.  Despite the minimal coverage the housing market has received in this election, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that a housing market simply operating at historical averages could double the U.S. economic growth rate and create nearly three million jobs. 

The point being - jobs solve a lot of problems, and economic development can start with housing policies that stimulate new construction which has been nonexistent over the past four plus years. New construction can, and has, contribute five percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). All in all, housing related goods and services have historically contributed between 15 to 20 percent of GDP, but it is substantially off those historical averages. Remember there are over 300 million people in the U.S. and most of them prefer to sleep indoors.  Construction and housing policy starts with policies for shelter, rent, owner-occupied, and special needs. What are we waiting for?