The release of the government’s jobs report this past week was cause for about as much speculation as Apple Inc.’s World Wide Developers’ Conference is this week. And just as people pretty much knew about Apple’s fourth-generation iPhone weeks ago, so people were pretty sure what the jobs report would look like before it was made official. The jobs report needed contextualization within the economic disasters we have endured for the last three years. We will leave contextualization of Apple’s WWDC and new iPhone for another post.
Depending on the source you read/saw/heard, the creation of some 431 thousand jobs in May marked the single biggest increase in employment in the US in many years. President Obama and used the growing job creation as electoral ammunition for the mid-term elections this coming fall. But both President Obama and the progressive blog “The Huffington Post” pointed out that made the greatest proportion of new jobs. The president pointed it out, but saw the trend as upward and well worth continuing within the policies of the Democratic administration:
Without explicitly mentioning the upcoming mid-term elections, Obama said the nation will have a choice between the ideas and principles of each party and a choice to move forward or backward.
“We’re going to be able to return, if we want, to the failed economic policies of the past, policies that gave us record deficits and declining incomes and sluggish job growth even before the recession, policies that led, in fact, to us almost going into a depression,” he said. “We can take that road again, or we can decide we want to move forward. We can keep building a stronger economy.”
Quote from Karen Travers,
Jeannine Aversa of “The Huffington Post” was less optimistic:
A swell in temporary government hiring for the census drove almost all the job market’s gains last month – a huge disappointment to Wall Street and a sign that private employers aren’t yet confident enough in the recovery to start adding workers with gusto.
Daunted by the European debt crisis and a falling U.S. stock market at home, American businesses added just 41,000 jobs in May, the fewest since January. The government hired 10 times as many for the national census, but those positions will begin to disappear as summer arrives.
The nay-sayers also point to the fact that the phenomenal debt the US is holding – nay, expanding – is just as worrisome as terrorism in the minds of most Americans, according to a poll released by Gallup and discussed at TheAtlantic.com. Such fears are keeping employers from expanding private-sector jobs (and the attendant costs of insurance and facilities that such expansion would engender).
A tasty morsel buried inside is that those with jobs are working more, well, minutes a day: “which increased to an average of 33.5 hours from 33.4. That helped to lift weekly wages and also cut the number of part-time workers who wanted full-time jobs by 343,000” (according to Ms. Aversa of “The Huffington Post”). Painfully modest, but at least a sign that more businesses have work for their present staff to do, which will need to happen before businesses can get enough work to hire beyond present capacity.
As our regular readers know, we have leaned toward pessimism on the economy in the short term: the housing/mortgage crisis remains, as do the millions of bank-owned houses needing to be sold. Though the TARP monies have largely flowed back toward the Treasury, people outside financial firms and auto-manufacturing management positions have not been able to see much change in their economic situations – at least not for the better. But the trends do seem stable, if not yet accelerating. Once the Census jobs are squeezed back out of the numbers for June and July, once we see how people are spending their summer holidays (those who need to take them from their work), then we can probably better judge the administration’s optimism. I hope to report that our skepticism was unfounded!