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Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Would A Good Jobs Report Have Looked Like?

The same old miserable numbers came out today, nowhere near what we need.

I feel like I’m in the movie Groundhog Day when it comes to the job numbers. I wake up on the first Friday each month to the same story — subpar job growth, no budging in key indicators, the insanity of the “anti-stimulus” of bleeding government jobs – and then wake up to it again next month. This month looks like the past dozen: 80,000 jobs were created, while the government sector shed 24,000 jobs.

We need a list of other words because I’m exhausted with describing how disappointing the job numbers are, especially when the results are so obvious given a lack of movement on fiscal and monetary stimulus. So let me instead describe what a good jobs numbers report would have looked like.

First of all, there would have been job growth that gets us back to full employment instead of job growth that is slightly around the rate of population growth. There would be well over 150,000 jobs created a month, ideally above 200,000 — there’s a lot of catching up to do. The key indicator to watch is the employment-population ratio, which is the percentage of the workforce that has a job. As unemployment only indicates the number of people actively searching for a job, and many are dropping out of the labor force and giving up on finding a job, the unemployment rate tells us less and less. And if the population is growing faster than the number of jobs created, we are losing out. The employment-population ratio tells us the actual rate at which we are employing people. It is currently at 58.4 percent, the same it was in January 2011.

A tourniquet would have been applied to the bleeding of public sector jobs. This is the worst time to push government workers into the ranks of the unemployed. With slack capacity, a high number of unemployed people, and negative real interest rates, we can’t afford a war against government workers. It’s a war in which we’ve lost 250,000 government jobs since January, with 77,000 in the “local government education” category (in other words, public school teachers).

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