Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri. or Sat., May 24, 25 or 26
After the headlines following the release of the latest jobs report, two questions lingered: First, who are the analysts whose “expectations” were disappointed by adding 115,000 new jobs in April? Also – without saying the race for economic recovery is a contest between the tortoise and the hare-brained – isn’t slow and steady growth better than fast and furious … and foolish?
After all, most of the GOP complaints about those 115,000 people now working at new jobs seem to deny Republican complicity in not helping since the Bush administration’s policies enabled the mess, and to deny that their goal is to return to those times of de-regulating the financial sector, cutting taxes for the rich, and spending on undeclared wars off the books.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program this month reminded people that George W. Bush lost U.S. jobs during a good economy and Obama created jobs during the lousy economy he inherited, and the labor leader asked Americans to imagine how improved the economy could be today if Republicans in Congress had worked with Obama on job creation rather than pursuing their stated top priority of making him a one-term president.
Republicans “don’t have any credibility on job creation,” Trumka said. By embracing the budget plan of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) based on tax breaks for the wealthy and program cuts for the rest of us, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is following the same path that sank the economy and would “take us right back into recession, if not a depression.”
April’s job growth was the 26th consecutive month private-sector jobs improved and was above the 100,000 needed to keep up with new job entrants. The unemployment rate improved slightly, from 8.2 percent in March to 8.1 percent in April, as did the number of jobless, which fell from 12.7 million in March to 12.5 million in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). About 14.5 million workers remain unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work.
To no one’s surprise, Romney pounced and pronounced the data as “terrible” and “very disappointing.” Did any journalist challenge that assessment by noting that a genuinely disappointing, terrible report might show a LOSS of more than 779,000 jobs, like in Bush’s last month in office?
Romney’s theme is to blame Obama for not doing more (ironic from a “free market,” anti-government type), telling Fox News, “The American people are wondering why this recovery isn’t happening faster” (accidentally conceding that a recovery exists).
Why? An obstructionist Congress comes to mind.
"Republicans in Congress have blocked President Obama’s efforts to keep propelling growth, whether it’s the American Jobs Act or routine highway infrastructure investments," Trumka added – though few corporate news outlets featured his perspective, “even as Republicans push catastrophic budgets that threaten our economic security and break our promises to the next generation.”
Actually, private-sector job creation has been on the plus side each month of Obama’s presidency. Further, February and March jobs numbers were corrected upward, from 240,000 to 259,000 in February and from 120,000 to 154,000 in March, the BLS said.
By most measurements, the U.S. economy is doing better than it was a year ago, which means either that things are improving, albeit too slowly for most people’s comfort, or things in 2011 were much worse than reported.
The total U.S. labor force is down, falling 342,000, which most agree shows that too many jobless Americans have given up looking for work. The resulting “labor force participation rate” stands at 63.6 percent – the lowest it’s been in 30 years.
The long-term jobless (folks unemployed for more than 27 weeks) didn’t get much better, remaining at 5.1 million.
However, even a small gain is a gain.
"Looking through the revisions and weather effects, this report indicates a labor market that continues to show a modest pace of improvement, about in line with expectations and an economy that is making some headway in recovery," Deutsche Bank economist Peter Hooper told ABC News.
Of course, real average hourly earnings, seasonally adjusted, fell 0.5 percent since April 2011, and the Consumer Price Index tracking inflation shows motor fuel prices for the Midwest in April went up 5.5 percent in a year, so work remains. But it should look ahead, not back.
“Pursuing tried and failed economic policies is the definition of crazy – and exactly what Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Boehner and others would do,” Trumka said. “Their austerity agenda concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, starves our nation of the funds needed to invest in our future, further deepens the wealth divide, and chokes off any hope of a strong recovery.”