The Employment Situation – Onward and Upward (and Faster, Please!)


Today’s Employment Situation report, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was one small step for the millions of jobless Americans, but one giant leap in the right direction toward a more sustainable recovery. The 151 thousand total payroll jobs added in October pale in comparison to the roughly 8.4 million jobs lost since the beginning of the recession and continuing for months after the official end of the recession, but it is around the number of jobs that need to be added monthly to keep the unemployment rate from rising further, and the right base from which to start adding enough jobs to bring the unemployment rate down.

October’s gains were above expectations and coupled with upward revisions to August and September, improving the landscape somewhat. The decennial census workers are no longer depressing the headline number and state and local job cuts slowed, so today’s report might contain a spark of optimism. But the household survey shows the unemployment rate unchanged at 9.6 percent, while the numbers of unemployed and long-term unemployed persons were essentially flat.

Sixteen months after the end of the recession this recovery is solidly in the jobless recovery camp, with payroll employment no higher than at the end of the recession. Without significant and consistent improvement in even today’s positive numbers, the labor market consequences and impact on the overall economic recovery could be dire.

Against this backdrop, this week also included the Fed’s announcement of a second round of quantitative easing and mid-term elections, which delivered control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans and weakened Democratic control of the Senate, with implications for the conduct of fiscal policy over the next two years.

This would be a good time for some VERY responsible governing.

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