"These jobs are going boys, and they ain't coming back."
-- Bruce Springstein, "My Hometown"

The new state-by-state jobs numbers came out this week, and the stubborn refusal of unemployment rates to come down in many areas -- especially in the South -- is forcing millions to wonder: when, and if, are the jobs coming back?

Many of them might not be. As the AP recently observed:
Even with an economic revival, many U.S. jobs lost during the recession may be gone forever and a weak employment market could linger for years.

That could add up to a "new normal" of higher joblessness and lower standards of living for many Americans, some economists are suggesting.

If true, that means that of the 7.2 million jobs lost since the economic downturn began in December 2007, many will take years to replace. An economist with the Economic Policy Institute is quoted saying that unemployment will remain elevated "at least until 2014."

Certain regions of the country -- especially the South -- are feeling the pain more intensely. Of the 15 states with unemployment rates higher than the national average, nearly half are in the South:

STATES WITH UNEMPLOYMENT HIGHER THAN NATIONAL AVERAGE

September 2009

U.S. AVERAGE - 9.8%

Alabama - 10.7%

California - 12.2%

District of Columbia - 11.4%

Florida - 11%

Georgia - 10.1%

Illinois - 10.5%

Kentucky - 10.9%

Michigan - 15.3%

Nevada - 13.3%

North Carolina - 10.8%

Ohio - 10.1%

Oregon - 11.5%

Rhode Island - 13%

South Carolina - 11.6%

Tennessee - 10.5%

See this chart from EPI [pdf] for a listing of all states.

A jobless recovery is especially troubling for many Southern states, given that they already have high concentrations of poverty, lower wages and weaker social safety nets than many other parts of the country. Politically, it will likely fuel further criticism of the Obama administration and Democratic economic policies in general.

But as economist Paul Krugman and others have argued, the problem is likely that the stimulus package and other government job-creating measures haven't gone far enough. This week, two economists called for a new program: a $28 billion job-creation tax credit targeting businesses, non-profits and governments that add payroll over the next two years.