It’s a testament to how bad the American employment market has gotten that the most recent jobs report was met with applause.
The Labor Department’s July jobs figures showed that employers added 163,000 new workers last month. That exceeds what most forecasters were predicting. But it’s only barely enough to keep up with population growth. And the overall unemployment rate actually increased slightly, to about 8.3 percent. 
The good news is that the bad news could be worse. After a May and June with absolutely horrible jobs figures, keeping up with population growth is an improvement.
This situation overall is dire. Jobs have been and will continue to be the most important issue to voters come November. A new Gallup/USA TODAY poll found that 92 percent of likely voters rated “creating good jobs” as either a “very important” or “extremely important” priority for the next president. That was a full five points ahead of the second most popular issue (reducing corruption in government).
The issue has bipartisan salience. Unlike healthcare reform or tax cuts, creating good jobs is a high priority for Democrats and Republicans alike, with 48 percent of each ranking it as extremely important.
And yet neither Obama nor Romney has provided anything remotely resembling a robust, detailed policy package for spurring job grow and getting the employment market back on track.
Too often, the campaigns just toss out hopelessly vague promises about what they’ll do if they win — “restore the middle class,” “stop outsourcing,” “build infrastructure,” and so on.
Sure, Romney has his “59-Point” economic plan. But he hasn’t done much to market it. No one has read it. And while the plan itself does contain some sensible policy reforms — cutting corporate tax rates and expanding domestic energy production, for example — it mostly just nibbles around the edges. It doesn’t seriously address what has become a full-blown crisis.
The President did actually present jobs legislation to Congress. But while it included some smart reforms, it was too limited. And it went nowhere.
It’s baffling why the candidates don’t seriously jump on the jobs issue, given how close this election is going to be. Month after month, the polls narrow. New polls from Purple Strategies find that the races in key swing states are completely deadlocked. Even small, concerted gains in key states could make the different in November.
A smart, specific set of pro-jobs policies now could win the presidency. Here are the two I’d start with. They’re palatable to the base of both parties and would generate widespread public support.