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Tilting at Windmills

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May 7, 2010

AT LONG LAST, U.S. JOB MARKET STARTS TO LOOK PRETTY GOOD.... It seemed all but certain that the economy added jobs in April; the question was how many, and the extent to which the larger trend would be encouraging or discouraging.

With that in mind, the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offered some very good news at a key moment this morning, with job totals exceeding expectations.

More confident employers stepped up job creation in April, expanding payrolls by 290,000, the most in four years. The jobless rate rose to 9.9 percent as people streamed back into the market looking for work.

The hiring of 66,000 temporary government workers to conduct the census helped overall payroll growth last month. However, private employers -- the backbone of the economy -- boosted jobs, too. They added a surprisingly strong 231,000 positions last month, also the most since March 2006, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The unemployment rate rose from 9.7 percent in March to 9.9 percent in April, mainly because 805,000 jobseekers -- perhaps feeling better about their prospects - resumed their searches for work.

After a brutal recession, the economy has now added jobs for four consecutive months, and five of the last six months. April's totals were easily the strongest since the start of the economic downturn in late 2007. [Update: April's numbers were also the best month for job creation in the U.S. since March 2006 -- more than four years ago.]

Also encouraging, the job numbers for February and March were revised upwards, showing an even healthier employment picture. While previous estimates showed 14,000 job losses in February, the revised total was a gain of 39,000. Likewise, March was revised from 162,000 to 230,000.

Yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to talk down the expected job totals, insisting that the data would be skewed by Census-related hiring. Don't believe it -- 231,000 or the 290,000 came from the private sector.

What about the uptick in the unemployment rate? The measure can be a little tricky. There were plenty of months in late 2009 when the economy lost jobs, but the unemployment rate fell. In April, the economy added quite a few jobs, but the unemployment rate rose. How does this happen? The Washington Post had a helpful article about this recently.

As a reminder from last month, I've revamped the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. Now, the image makes a distinction -- red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

apriljobs.jpg

Note: The chart has changed slightly from last month, in part to reflect revised numbers from February and March, and also because The Bureau of Labor Statistics recalculated all of 2009's numbers earlier this year.

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

Headline on my local paper's front page today:

"Kentucky Poll: Voters trust GOP on economy over democrats; see stimulus as failure"
http://www.kentucky.com/2010/05/07/1255382/kentucky-poll-voters-trust-gop.html

And I used to think most of the problems in this state were due to corruption and politicians like Bunning and McConnell. I stand corrected. If the people of this state, and any other for that matter, are stupid enough to believe the lies spewed by the GOP then they deserve what they get. In KY's case, it will perpetually stay at the bottom of every major category such as health, education, etc.

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 7, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

As President Obama's administration continues month to month into his term, please feel free to expand the graph month to month retroactively in President Bush's term. A view of what was happening in 2007 may add more relevant context. -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 7, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

By this chart it looks like everything started to change right around January of 2009. I wonder why that is. Did something happen around then? You know, in January of 2009?

Posted by: chrenson on May 7, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

290,000. Now that's respectable.

Cue wingnut spin in 5, 4, 3, 2, ...

Posted by: JPS on May 7, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Er, citizen pain, most of those same Kentuckians bet on Lookin at Lucky in the Derby, as well.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 7, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

It is going to take a lot more improvement to convince people that Obama is doing a great job with the economy. Kentucky is just one place where the Republican propaganda machine is large and in charge.

Anyway, good news. Things are getting better.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 7, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

In other news out of Lexington, KY, today, most voters believe Calipari is Pure as the Driven Snow.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 7, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

this is very unlike me, but citizen pain, I'm going to give the Kentuckians a bit of a break.

at least until someone can tell me why i have yet to see a single paid advertisement by the DNC or any left-supporting 527 showing this simple, inexpensive, easy to understand "bikini chart" to the masses.

why shouldn't those with Republican inclinations believe the Republicans when their's is the only story being told?

c'mon Dems. this is easy: easy to make, easy to understand. add some simple labels, do a simple explanatory voice over, and just hold the chart on screen for 30 seconds. what am i missing here?

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 7, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Man, the prospect of socialized medicine really is dealing a blow to growth, free enterprise and prosperity, isn't it?

Posted by: Basilisc on May 7, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, lay off the hoops Bert, them's fightin' words.

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 7, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

april marks a full year of +9% unemployment

Posted by: neill on May 7, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Good point, this is as much the dems fault as it is gullible folks. Democrats should be hammering away day and night about their successes.

It's not that easy to do though given the fact that most major media outlets are are controlled by the forces that control the GOP and hence are using their resources to undermine the democratic success so they an return t the good old days of unfettered greed.

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 7, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

I would like for folks to make a mental note that prior month job numbers were revised up, as I'm sick of conspiracy-minded people insisting that the numbers are "always" revised down after the fact, as they insist that the original numbers were lies used to hide the "real" numbers.

Not that it'll make a difference, as I'm sure the next time the numbers are revised down that they'll assure us that they're ALWAYS revised down; but you'll know otherwise. It's not a conspiracy, it's just the nature of imprecise numbers.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 7, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

John Boner's job is one we should happily add to the minus column. Grrrrrr!

Posted by: buddym on May 7, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, citizen_pain, what do you think my chances are in moving to Louisville or Lexington, next year and wearing my Jayhawk sun visor with pride? Should I wear Teflar, as well?

Posted by: berttheclock on May 7, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

The so-called "liberal media" can't use that graph, Steve. It leaves little room for "he said, she said" and "both sides are equally bad" hackery.

Posted by: Gregory on May 7, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

It's not that easy to do though given the fact that most major media outlets are are controlled by the forces that control the GOP...

Too true, and that's why a large majority of Americans continue to blame that Democrat George Bush for the problems with the economy, while leaving Republican Obama largely off the hook. Oh wait...

Seriously though, you people DEFINITELY over-estimate the impact political ads and the media have. Believe it or not, people believe their lying eyes more often than you think. Our political fortunes rest on what the economy does, not what Democrats say the economy is doing. And if things keep up as they are, we should be sitting pretty by November.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 7, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I've revamped the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month

Now it's a bikini with an iPod clipped on the one side. Benen---my kids are watching!!! But in other news,

april marks a full year of +9% unemployment
Posted by: neill

Thanks in no small part to the treasonous, vile, America-hating echo of the Bush/Cheney Republikanner-Beastie nightmare....

Posted by: S. Waybright on May 7, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to talk down the expected job totals, insisting that the data would be skewed by Census-related hiring.

Wouldn't that be a good argument for more federal spending? Or would Boehner prefer those people were unemployed.

Posted by: Jinchi on May 7, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

An interesting poll from that same kentucky.com, which is the online site for the Lexington paper, shows dissatisfaction growing against Mitch. His disapproval ratings have risen to 49 per cent. However, while Democrats feel he is tne Commander of No, RepuGs say they think he has compromised too much with Reid. Say What?

But, at the Louisville C-J, they show a pickup from USA about a national poll conducted by AARP, where financial stress is blamed for showing those over 45 having less sexual satisfaction with their partners. Unless we get the economy in order, there may be less harmony among partners and more EHarmony.com involvement on the rise.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 7, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

To equalize the amount of airtime the Rethugs receive, liberals should start showing up in mass at teabagger rallies with picket signs bearing a giant copy of Benen's bikini w/ipod graph.

If enough of us can mix in the crowd, there's a chance the image will get picked up on Youtube, Fucksnooze, or at least the Daily Show.

To avoid potentially violent conflict we could just tell teabaggers its a graph showing the number of people who believe the president was born in Kenya. I can see that being parroted on Fucks and Friends the next day.

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 7, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Believe it or not, people believe their lying eyes more often than you think

I'm not so sure. A lot of teabaggers think Obama raised their taxes even though they actually got a tax break.

Posted by: qwerty on May 7, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Think how many more jobs we'd be creating without Obama's socialist policies slowing things down!

Posted by: Conservatroll on May 7, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK
zeitgeist@9:14: c'mon Dems. this is easy: easy to make, easy to understand. add some simple labels, do a simple explanatory voice over, and just hold the chart on screen for 30 seconds. what am i missing here?

That it's all just a game of 'good cop, bad cop'? A knock-out punch would ruin the illusion and force reluctant (and now mostly conservative) Democrats to get on with progressive legislation; something they really don't want.

Posted by: JTK on May 7, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Encouraging numbers, but not nearly good enough to bring down the unemployment and underemployment rates and until that happens voters are going to stay angry and scared and that does not bode well for the Democrats in November. Do not get me wrong, I think Obama has done things just about perfectly on the economic front given the political realities and the fact that he is not a socialist, but 8 years of Dumbya put us in a very deep hole.

Posted by: terry on May 7, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

BIO BRAIN SAYS: "Seriously though, you people DEFINITELY over-estimate the impact political ads and the media have"

Well how do you explain the incredible disconnect between reality and the standard narrative? What forces people to be so blatantly oblivious of facts?

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 7, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

..
obama's last 3-months: jobs GAINED 500,000+

bush's last 3-months: jobs LOST 1.8-million
..

Posted by: MR. IRONY on May 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

All well and good, but, we still have a friend whose unemployment ran out and, temporarily saved by working as a lead for the census, but, will, shortly, be back seeking work as a 57 year old. He lost his long term job, when cutbacks in the construction field swept into his flooring supply employer's business and there was a mass lay-off. Funny thing about lay-offs. They, once, meant a possibility of being re-hired. You might as well call them terminations today. But, Portland, OR is now blessed with more and more side walk carts with some fine food due to many terminations of chefs.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 7, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Steve's chart is featured on TPM's front page too.

Posted by: Dale on May 7, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oops scratch that. It's Salon.com where the chart is featured.

Hmm, hard to get a correction in when the site disallows Too many comments have been submitted from you in a short period of time. Please try again in a short while.

2 in a minute?

Posted by: Dale on May 7, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

And if things keep up as they are, we should be sitting pretty by November.

Not with 9% unemployment. With 6 months to go, the clock is running out.

Posted by: bri on May 7, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Minorly Strange: This morning Andrew Leonard put up Steve's chart without attribution. Then he updated the post with a sort of strange statement:

(UPDATE: Kudos to Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, for being the first person I found to update the Obama vs. Bush jobs chart.)

I don't think he gets it that the chart is a Steve blog feature.

Posted by: Dale on May 7, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

It would be helpful if the number of government jobs created vs. free market jobs created. We are still going in the wrong direction if the (free-market jobs/gov't jobs) ratio is not 10:1.

Posted by: reallymaddog on May 7, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK


Sorry for the faux paux!
290,000 jobs created looks promising on the surface but it would be more helpful if the number of government jobs created vs. free market jobs created was reported. We are still going in the wrong direction if the (free-market jobs/gov't jobs) ratio is not 10:1 or more.

Posted by: reallymaddog on May 7, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm skeptical of the 66,000 temporary jobs number cited. Aren't there 600,000 census workers right now?

Posted by: nadie on May 7, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

A plot of monthly job losses offers limited insight.

Of course fewer jobs are being lost. We have stabilized at 10% official (U3) and 17% real unemployment (U6). Those are the numbers that matter, and they haven't been getting any better.

Posted by: Pol Pot, Humanitarian on May 7, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Also in the statement...Temporary help services continued to add jobs (26,000); employment in this industry has increased by 330,000 since September 2009.

Posted by: Alseifus on May 7, 2010 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

While the news "sounds" good. The BLS created 188,000 jobs out of thin air with their always optimistic birth/death (of jobs. not people) data. Then there's 66,000 temporary Census jobs and temp jobs 26,000. And when you consider that it takes about 150,000 jobs a month to simply accommodate new entries into the workforce, you have a much less cheery jobs picture. Subtract the bogus BLS birth/death jobs of 188,000 and 92,000 temp jobs, you have a total job creation of 10,000 jobs. That's 140,000 less jobs than needed just to break even with job entrants.

Posted by: mike on May 8, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

thats perfect info! will share with my friends and keep it to use it in the future.

Posted by: Gravuri on September 30, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

The President lays out his agenda to foster investment here at home. He vows to close the tax loopholes for sending jobs and profits overseas the Congressional Republicans have tried to protect.

Posted by: Jamesrudy on October 17, 2010 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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