The month of May saw job growth of 217,000 in the U.S. but no change in the number of people who are unemployed. Perhaps buoyed by the news of job growth, 218,000 unemployed people who had abandoned the search for work re-entered the labor force in May. But what awaits those hopeful job-seekers?
Although we’ve had several months of relatively positive jobs reports, the pace of job growth has been too slow to employ the nearly 10 million officially unemployed workers in any reasonable amount of time. The number workers without jobs for 27 weeks or more did not change in May and still accounts for 35% of the total unemployed. Nor has the labor force participation rate budged past the historically low levels that have defined the Great Recession and its long, dreary ‘recovery.’ Prospects for working people are still grim, especially in the 24 states that have callously refused to expand Medicaid even as their residents struggle to get by.
Ok, 50 straight months of job growth in the private sector – almost unprecedented – and we’re roughly back to where we were in late 2007, just before the official beginning of the “Great Recession.” The top line number for the report on April job creation was 288,000 new jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate to 6.3%. In many economic recoveries in the post-WWII years, this would be good news and worth celebrating. But the Long Depression that began in 2007 is far from over, and I don’t mean just that the number of long term unemployed remains higher than in any other post-recession period or that the labor force participation rate is lower than at any time since the early 1980s, both of which are true. I mean the underlying problem, that the US economy is a failure in achieving the core goal of any modern economy: generating living wage jobs for all willing and able to work.
A limping economy reflected in feeble jobs numbers and inadequate policy prescriptions. Those are the conclusions to be drawn from the Department of Labor’s March Jobs report and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s March 31 speech in Chicago.
The March jobs situation illustrates the problems of a static economy which added 192,000 jobs, down from February’s 197,000 jobs. Unemployment was unchanged at 6.7 percent. Unemployment among African Americans rose over the previous month, from 12 to 12.4 percent, while Latino unemployment decreased slightly from 8.1 to 7.9 percent.
The theme of this month’s jobs report ought to be ‘not enough.’ The latest disappointing numbers are far lower than the optimistic expectations voiced by many economists after ADP reported payroll growth of 238,000 in December 2013. CPEG has been arguing for years that what job growth the U.S. economy has seen since the official end of the ‘great recession’ has been inadequate. In fact, the total number of employed workers in the U.S. is still lower than it was before the start of the great recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the economy added 74,000 jobs in December 2013, falling far short of expectations. This anemic job growth brings the total employment in the country to less than what it was in November 2007, the month before the great recession started. It’s important to note that if the economy had added the 200,000+ jobs that many expected, we would still not have reached pre-recession employment levels. Even a ‘good’ jobs report would have been disappointing.