By Mark Whitehouse

For anyone trying to understand the motivation behind the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and other cities, today's jobs report offers some insight.

While better than expected, the report suggests the economy is not growing fast enough to bring down a disturbingly high unemployment rate, and may be growing so slowly that joblessness could start rising again. The 103,000 jobs employers added to their payrolls -- actually closer to 60,000 if one excludes the effects of the recent strike at Verizon -- falls short of the roughly 150,000 jobs the economy must create monthly to offset the natural increase in the labor force.

For the 44 million Americans aged 20 to 34, a group into which most of the protesters in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park appear to fall, the picture is even worse. As of September, that group's unemployment rate stood at 11.3 percent, compared to 9.1 percent for the general population aged 16 and older.

Contrary to public perceptions, this isn’t a group of slackers. About 4 in 5 of them were either employed or actively looking for work as of September, according to our own analysis of Labor Department data. That compares to about 2 in 3 for the broader population, and is similar to the rate for people aged 45 to 54.

Among the youthful protesters, the messages may be convoluted or nebulous, but the grievances are real.

(Mark Whitehouse is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board)

-0- Oct/07/2011 16:12 GMT