Now just 11 million more to go.
Overall, the jobs report for November told pretty much the same story as its recent predecessors: The economy is still recovering, but not fast enough to get unemployment back to normal anytime soon.
After revisions that showed slower employment growth in October, the Labor Department's estimate of average monthly job gains for the past three months stands at 139,000, just a bit more than enough to offset natural growth in the labor force. A drop in the unemployment rate, to 7.7 percent in November from 7.9 percent in October, was driven primarily by a decline in the number of people who are in the labor force and can hence be counted as unemployed.
So how far are we from normal? In the decade before the recession, the employed share of the U.S. population averaged about 63.3 percent. Over the three months through November, the employment-to-population ratio averaged 58.7 percent. The difference: 11.1 million jobs. That's down from 11.7 million in August, but not much improved from the peak of 11.9 million in July 2011.
The message for Congress and President Barack Obama: A lot of people still need work, and could lose their skills and motivation if they don’t get it soon. So please don’t take us off the fiscal cliff.
(Mark Whitehouse is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)