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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 02, 2014

 
Some genuinely good jobs news for a change

by David Atkins

There are all sorts of reasons to be bearish on the overall state of the economy. There is almost certainly a bubble in stocks and real estate, wages are still terrible, inequality is increasing and many would claim with some justification that the official unemployment rate is nowhere near accurate. No amount of positive developments on the temporary employment front can change the fact that the economy needs to be reoriented and its rules changed.

That said, good news is still good news that really matters to people's lives. And this is definitely good news:

Employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most since January 2012, while the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The jobless rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent in March, the lowest level since the height of the financial crisis in September 2008.

The numbers were well above expectations and came as welcome news to Democrats, who are hoping that improvements in the economy can help them in the midterm elections.
President Obama credited the jobs increase to the "grit and determination of the American people.”

"We have to keep a relentless focus on job creation and creating more opportunities for working families," Obama said during a press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel in the Rose Garden. "There's plenty more that Congress should be doing, from raising the minimum wage to creating good construction jobs rebuilding America."

...

The unemployment report could be a sign that the economy weathered the brutal winter that slowed economic growth to an anemic 0.1 percent in the first three months of the year.

In another big positive for the labor market heading into summer, employers added 36,000 more jobs than initially estimated in February and March.

February’s revised figure jumped to 222,000 from 197,000, while the total for March increased to 203,000 from 192,000.

Employers have hired 713,000 workers in the past three months, bumping up the monthly average to 238,000 after it had slipped over the winter to less than 200,000.
The biggest piece of bad news, meanwhile, is directly related to the elimination of the long-term unemployment benefits:

Still, the jobs report showed a troubling drop in labor force participation, a statistic that captures the number of people in the job market. That number fell to 806,000 in April, following an increase of 503,000 workers in March.

"While it’s welcome news that more of our friends and neighbors found work in the past month, this report also indicates more than 800,000 Americans left the workforce last month, which is troubling," Boehner said.

The overall job market participation rate fell 0.4 percentage points to 62.8 percent, the lowest since the late 1970s.

Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics, said the expiration of the emergency unemployment benefits program is probably weighing on labor force participation.

“Older workers who have lost unemployment insurance are now retiring and stepping out of the workforce,” he said in an email to The Hill.

“This was widely anticipated to happen and now it is showing up in the data.”
The need for structural changes to the economy is going to become ever more starkly clear in the future, and the asset-based boom and bust cycles are going to be increasingly frequent. But any time more people can prosper even in the short term is a good thing.


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