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Jobs the key to U.S. recovery

So what if 9 percent of American workers don’t have jobs? Ninety-one percent employment seems like a decent number. If you received 91 percent on a math test, it would be at least an A minus. About nine out of 10 people who want jobs have them. So why does it matter?

It matters because the difference between a booming job market and a prosperous economy and struggling to stay afloat is only a few degrees. That difference can be found in the other 9 percent of Americans who can’t find a job.

The unemployment rate has been stuck around 9 percent all year. A 91 percent employment rate simply isn’t good enough to pull the economy out of the mud, repair the housing market and improve the nation’s balance sheet.

It wasn’t until two years after the dot-com bubble burst that employment bottomed. At the worst of the job losses a decade ago, 94 percent of working Americans had jobs. That’s the same as the average employment rate over the past generation.

Almost two and a half years after the end of the Great Recession, employment has stagnated. Ninety-one percent employment may sound better than 9 percent unemployment, but it isn’t.

Tom Hudson, anchor and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report,” can be followed on Twitter HudsonNBR.