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By Mark Zandi, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

The great American job machine is back in high gear. Job growth is booming, unemployment is falling fast, and Walmart’s recent decision to increase wages for many of its employees is a precursor to bigger pay increases for a lot more workers.

Recent job growth has been extraordinary. More than 3 million jobs were created over the past year, and more than 1 million in just the past three months.

This is the strongest growth since the apex of the technology boom 15 years ago, and is approximately three times the job growth necessary to absorb workers who enter the labor force in a typical year.

Early in the economic recovery, most of the new jobs were in the low-paying retail and hospitality industries. Job gains are now across all pay scales. Higher-paying construction, manufacturing, transportation, health-care, and professional services industries are adding to payrolls.

The new jobs are also almost all full-time. The number of part-time jobs hasn’t changed much over the past several years.

The surge in job openings in recent months also foretells continued strong job growth. More than 5 million positions, a record, are open nationwide, up from 4 million a year ago, with nearly every industry adding open spots.

Layoffs remain near record lows. While some increase in layoffs in coming months wouldn’t be surprising because of fallout from the oil price collapse on the energy industry, any increase should be modest.

Quits are on the rise, another good sign. Workers won’t leave their current job unless they feel good about finding another one. Twenty-something millennials, many of whom got their first job in the worst of times and at low salaries, are especially quick to move.

There has been much hand-wringing over what the recent wild swings in global commodity and financial markets mean for U.S. growth and jobs. They shouldn’t mean much. There will be no net impact on jobs from all the crosscurrents created by the plunge in oil prices, the decline in long-term interest rates, and the surge in the value of the U.S. dollar.

Prospects for a substantial increase in housing construction also augur well for job creation. Home building collapsed in the housing bust and has not kept pace with the demand for new homes ever since. A housing shortage is quickly developing. Builders will ultimately put up more homes, and more home building means more jobs in many parts of the country.

At the current pace of job growth, the still uncomfortably large number of involuntarily unemployed and underemployed will get back on the job quickly. If all goes reasonably well, the economy will be back to full employment — everyone who wants a full-time job will have one — by next summer.

Wage growth, which has been slowly edging higher, should pick up more substantially as the economy approaches full employment. Wage gains to date have been somewhat more tepid than expected, even accounting for the remaining slack in the job market. But if history is a reasonably reliable guide, wage growth won’t be kept down for much longer.

This is a long time coming. It’s been more than a decade since the economy was last at full employment, and that was only for a brief time. Workers have been more or less on the defensive ever since President Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic control union in the early 1980s.

Wage increases for Walmart workers may also be a seminal event, this time signaling labor’s comeback. Indeed, the economy’s biggest problem in just a few years will likely not be unemployment; it will be a serious labor shortage.

Aging baby boomers are beginning to retire en masse, and while more millennials are starting work, the nation’s labor force will soon all but stop growing. There will be an especially acute dearth of skilled workers, hurting the innovation and entrepreneurism that is vital to our economy’s long-term growth.

Investing more in educating and training our workforce is the most obvious solution to this problem. Targeting this investment in the least skilled would also address the increasingly wide gap in incomes and wealth.

Immigration reform that allows the world’s best and brightest who come here for school to stay after they graduate to work would also be an economic boon. By making the gutsy move to come here, they are by definition enterprising individuals who are more likely to start new companies that will be fountains of job growth and wealth.

It is difficult to envisage what could short-circuit the U.S. job machine, at least any time soon. Certainly the global economy is shaky and geopolitical threats abound. If wage growth revives as anticipated, the Federal Reserve will soon begin to raise short-term interest rates. This could create more volatility in financial markets than anticipated, hurting investment and other risk-taking.

But while things could go wrong, they would have to go very wrong to derail the U.S. job market.

Mark Zandi is chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. He wrote this for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Photo: Ron Dauphin via Flickr


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Rep. Bennie Thompson

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Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

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