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America's long-awaited boom for low-skill workers

The U.S. jobless rate now has fallen to 3.5 percent – the lowest in the half-century since 1969. What’s most heartening is that this jobs boom is helping the less-educated, low-skill Americans who’ve missed out on other, weaker jobs recoveries.

Mark this moment: Millions of American job seekers have prayed for it. The U.S. economic expansion now in its 11th year – having dodged that recession near-miss in 2015 – is bringing jobs to the long-jobless. The unemployment rates for workers without high school diplomas and for Hispanic Americans and African Americans are the lowest ever recorded. The rate for workers too discouraged to look for work – even in a jobs boom, they exist – and for underemployed Americans, typically part-timers seeking full-time jobs, is the lowest in two decades and near a record bottom. And wages nationwide, up 2.9 percent from a year ago, continue to outpace inflation.

All of which reminds us that while federal initiatives to reduce inequality produced slow economic growth for many years after the Great Recession, federal tax reform and deregulation have, by contrast, driven robust hiring. So many people are coming off the sidelines that U.S. employers haven’t yet run out of workers to hire. Cue the bromide that the best anti-poverty program is a job.

After Friday’s federal jobs report, The Wall Street Journal noted that, a decade ago, many economists thought a 5 percent jobless rate amounted to full employment, with the economy in balance and inflation neither rising nor falling. How long can 3.5 percent unemployment, with the economy still growing, continue? Beats us. The global economy is slowing, as is U.S. manufacturing.

That said, we’re amused by the doom-and-gloom economists and politicians who, in recent years, have confidently predicted five of the last zero U.S. recessions.

But we once again declare, with 100 percent accuracy guaranteed to subscribers, that America’s next serious recession truly is approaching! The only question is when it arrives. Maybe sooner, maybe later. Again, beats us.

For now, though, we’ll celebrate the fact that a record high 158,269,000 Americans have jobs. May we never return to the corrosive Midwestern joblessness that helped give the Rust Belt – a term now in welcome decline – its nickname.

This editorial first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.