Ground Zero: And the economy is not getting better

Nevadans, upside down on their mortgages and accustomed to driving past shopping centers with numerous vacancies, may be forgiven some skepticism about official pronouncements that the U.S. economy has been in recovery for the past three years.

Last week, The Associated Press reinforced some of those doubts, reporting this has been "the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression."

Since World War II, each of 10 U.S. recessions have been followed by a recovery that lasted at least three years, the wire service reported. "An Associated Press analysis shows that by just about any measure, the one that began in June 2009 is the weakest."

Nationwide, unemployment is at 8.3 percent, "the highest this long after a recession ended." Jobless rates rose in 44 states in July. They fell in just two states.

Nevada's new official rate is 12 percent, announced Friday. Although that figure is 1.8 points lower than it was in July 2011 - on paper, a huge improvement - it remains cold comfort when everyone knows the official statistics don't include workers who have simply stopped looking for a job.

"Of all the places that need jobs and for home values to rebound, it's Nevada," Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, said last week during his first Nevada visit since being tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate. "The unemployment rate? I had to read this number three times. 11.6 percent in Nevada (in June). You deserve better than that. You deserve jobs in your economy, you deserve an America that's heading in the right direction."

The economy also shed a staggering 8.8 million jobs during and shortly after the recession, of which fewer than half have been replaced - again, the worst performance since World War II, by far. It's quite an economic performance for the Democrats to run on - or away from. And Nevada, Ground Zero of the Great Recession, is again a battleground state, considered up for grabs by the pollsters.

So expect Mr. Romney and Rep. Ryan to be back many times, promising to do better. President Obama, meanwhile, will be back in Las Vegas on Wednesday to urge his supporters to stay the course while warning any GOP alternative would be "scary and extreme" - complete with images of heartless plutocrats throwing granny off the cliff.

Most Nevadans would gladly give up the honor of the candidates' presence in exchange for a return to stable prosperity. But along with a few other states, including Florida and Ohio, Nevada is where Election 2012 could be decided.

Enjoy the attention - if you can.