The news out of the Labor Department Friday that the nation added essentially no jobs whatsoever in August isn’t quite as bad as it seems: striking Verizon workers were included in the unemployed sector and now that they have returned to work, September’s total should be higher.

But that’s all the good news there is. Labor statisticians had predicted a drop in unemployment from July’s 9.1 percent and an increase in jobs by about 70,000 workers, but the new jobs didn’t materialize and employment remained unchanged, with the nonfarm work force stuck at 131 million.

Everyone’s eyes are on the economy this Labor Day. Despite the fact that many Americans are out today enjoying themselves (except for those still recovering from the depredations of Hurricane and then Tropical Storm Irene), there’s not a lot to celebrate.

Even those who still had jobs were confronted with figures that showed the average workweek had dropped a notch to 34.2 hours, and average hourly wages fell 3 cents to $23.09.

There continue to be 14 million people unemployed, with 6 million of them, more than 40 percent of the total, out of work for six months or longer.

But those are just numbers. They mask considerable misery, as millions of Americans struggle to get by as they watch their homes being foreclosed, their savings dwindle or vanish altogether, and their attempts to find work prove fruitless.

That is why expectations are rising for President Obama’s speech this Thursday, in which he says he will lay out a “jobs program” that will help address this situation. Early reports indicate he will offer tax breaks and subsidies to businesses that hire new workers, and will cut back on regulations — including, controversially, new environmental controls on power plants and factories — to keep expenses low and provide more funds for jobs.

In truth, though any president always takes the blame when jobs are scarce (and often claims the credit when they are plentiful), there is little Obama can do by himself to make things better. Unless circumstances change enough to make businesses want to hire, they won’t.

Economic policies can spur that change, but no one has found the magic formula yet to end this downturn. Sooner would be better than later, however.