Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 3, 2010

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE TICKS HIGHER, BUT PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS GROW.... Until the economy starts adding a significant number of jobs, the employment crisis will continue. And at this point, we're not even close to where we need to be.

That said, the monthly jobs report, published the first Friday of every month, actually exceeded expectations. By some measures, the U.S. economy was expected to lose 120,000 jobs in August, mostly as a result of government cutbacks and Census layoffs, with the private sector shedding about 10,000 jobs. The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics wasn't good, but it was significantly better than everyone thought it would be.

With the American economic recovery showing clear signs of slowdown, private employers added 67,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department said on Friday. The number was more than forecast.

Over all, the nation lost 54,000 jobs in August, the agency said, as state and local governments, many of them grappling with severe budget deficits, cut 10,000 jobs last month. Another 114,000 temporary Census positions also came to an end. In all, governments cut 121,000 jobs last month.

The unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent in July.

Of particular interest is the breakdown between the public and private sectors. It's the loss of public-sector jobs, mostly from the wind-down of the Census, that brings the overall total into the negative. But while the private sector was predicted in some corners to have lost jobs in August, it actually added 67,000, which is far short of where it needs to be, but is still a respectable number under the circumstances.

Indeed, we've now seen eight consecutive months of job growth in the private sector, a streak we haven't seen in a long while.

Also note, the job numbers for June and July were revised in a positive direction. While previous estimates showed the economy losing 221,000 jobs in June, the updated total was a loss of 175,000. In July, last month's reporting showed a loss of 131,000 jobs, while the revised total was a loss of 54,000.

To be clear, it's not my intention to sugarcoat the jobs report. The economy needs to be adding jobs -- lots of them -- right now, and as the chart below shows, the employment landscape's head is not yet above water. Just to keep up with population growth, the economy needs to add about 150,000 jobs a month. To bring down the unemployment rate, the figure would have to be about double. We're not even in the ballpark.

But for those looking for good news -- or at least less-bad news -- today's jobs report offers at least a glimmer of hope. Things aren't good, but nearly everyone expected them to be worse. (Dear Dems, don't use that as a campaign slogan.)

Once again, here's the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. 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.


Steve Benen 8:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (6)

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Two things would help the analysis of the chart-
1) Ex census
2) Overlay or parallel graph of per-month stimulus spending

Posted by: SP on September 3, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

I have a neighbor who's an unemployed project manager. She's smart, competent, skilled, and a genuine self-starter. She'll do just about anything but can't find anything. She's losing her house to foreclosure. She's 47 and has never experienced anything like this in her life.

We need to be clear about what's happening in America. We're in a depression and it's going to get worse. If you're young and black, that "worse" has already arrived. When a highly employable white person can't find a job, then there's no way to sugarcoat reality. Something fundamental has changed.

I wish there was a way to break through the happy talk and optimism. It's really grim and there are few if any positive portents out there. Stop crossing your fingers and demand that attention be paid. Of all the pundits out there, only Bob Herbert is really screaming about this.

Posted by: walt on September 3, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

"In all, governments cut 121,000 jobs last month." Good News for the Smaller Government Republicans!

What we forget, is that the jobs market is not stagnant; indeed, it is highly fluid. 4 million jobs are filled every month. Unfortunately, an equal-or greater- number of workers are fired, leading to negative jobs reports.

Posted by: DAY on September 3, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

FWIW, Erin Burnett on the Today Show, was (in advance of the actual numbers, was saying, ignore the losses, look at the private sector growth. The fact that someone from CNBC is actually trying to put a positive spin on things means something. I won't speculate on what it means, but it means something.

Posted by: Art Hackett on September 3, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

What is so particularly maddening about all of this is that we know why we are where we are: it isn't immigrants, it isn't because lenders were forced by the government to lend to people without means to repay, it isn't because social security is in trouble and we're all doomed, and it isn't because of the deficit.

It's because of the bankers and financial institutions and their greed, who have a death-grip on our lawmakers who cannot and will not dispense the justice that any of us would have in a heartbeat had we done the same things. They are not having to pay any price for their greed, and indeed they are enriching themselves even further, piling on bonuses with public money. Laughing while people suffer, knowing that they are getting and will continue to get away with it.

And their friends in government and in other positions of power are desperately trying to avoid regulation, and would have us all point to dark people as the cause of this instead of them. Can we ever evolve beyond this dynamic?

Posted by: terraformer on September 3, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Out of curiosity, where does a landscape have a head to try to keep above water? Or did you badly mix a metaphor there... :-)

Posted by: DavidNOE on September 3, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK



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