Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2011

JOB CREATION PICKS UP STEAM, UNEMPLOYMENT RATE REACHES TWO-YEAR LOW.... After a relatively encouraging jobs report a month ago, there were widespread fears that unexpected developments -- a spike in oil prices, crises in Japan, Portuguese debt crisis -- may undermine the employment market in March.

The benchmark, as the NYT's David Leonhardt noted this morning, was the first digit of today's new report. If the jobs report began with a 2, it would be good news. If not, there was cause for concern.

This, therefore, is what we wanted to see.

The United States economy added 216,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department reported Friday, adding to hopes that hiring was finally on a steadier track despite concerns about overseas turmoil.

The gain in jobs slightly exceeded economists' expectations. The unemployment rate continued to decline, to 8.8 percent.

The 8.8% unemployment rate, while obviously still way too high, is now at its lowest level in two years. What's more, the 216,000 created in March was the best month in about a year, and improved upon February's encouraging numbers.

Also note, the total would have been even higher had it not been for state and local budget cuts -- the private sector added 230,000 jobs, but the public sector lost 14,000 jobs. Those were jobs that could have been saved were it not for conservative fiscal policies.

Nevertheless, this is the second good jobs report in as many months, and offers hope that the employment market is finally getting back on track. So far in 2011, the economy has added 478,000 jobs -- and that just covers three months.

To be sure, to have robust growth that would bring the unemployment rate down in a hurry, we'd need to see even stronger employment numbers, but given the hole we've been in, what we're looking for a significant steps in the right direction. That's exactly the news we received today.

Just as encouraging, the totals from January and February were both revised upwards, albeit a little.

From a purely political perspective, policymakers would ideally look at figures like these, and consider ways to keep the momentum going. Regrettably, congressional Republicans continue to fight for spending cuts that are projected to cost the U.S. economy 700,000 jobs. This morning's report should offer Washington a big hint: if we want more good news, the GOP plan needs to be rejected.

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 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Yeah, yeah, whatever. The American people are concerned about out of control government spending.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 1, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

"The 8.8% unemployment rate, while obviously still way too high, is now at its lowest level in two years."


It'll be back around the Republicans desired 10+% within a few months after they pass their JOB KILLING Budget - and the Democrats capitulate, of course - AGAIN!!!

The Republican Party over country!
The Republican Party Uber ALLES!!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 1, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Cue the Repugnicons taking credit.

Posted by: Fr33d0m on April 1, 2011 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Cund etc. ...too fast that was my post

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on April 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

C and John are right. I refer you to Robert Reich's column of this week and Paul Krugman's today. It's not enough, and given the Dems' cowardly focus on spending instead of jobs, it's likely to push us into the double dip. Happy Spring.

Posted by: ericfree on April 1, 2011 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, John...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 1, 2011 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

You know those movies about early explorers who are on a long voyage and discover where ever they are going is a lot farther away than they though it was? Provisions are running low. Every morning they get up, go out on the deck and scan the horizon with a spyglass in hopes they'll finally see land. That's how I've been feeling as I search for this chart the first Friday of every month.
I'd be interested in seeing a regression curve of these numbers. The sudden drop off last year, and the subsequent recovery almost look like an aberration. You could almost put a ruler along the peaks as the first recovery begins in January of 2009 and it would line up with the numbers coming out of the second recovery cycle beginning late in 2010,

Posted by: Art Hackett on April 1, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Lovely news, but, sometime could you please include some meaningful data concerning how many of these include pension plans, living wages. broad health care coverage including dental, vision and alternative medicine for family and life partners or is "Would you like fries with your order?" expanding rapidly?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 1, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

The reason for my expressed pessimism above is a friend of ours, who is over 50, was laid off many months ago, has had his unemployment insurance run out and has only had a US Census job, of which, he was part of one of those Friday "employment spikes" of a few months back. Somehow, I do not feel the glory days of employment and a strong middle class of the mid '60s and very early '70s returning.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Is everyone else seeing the chart? Because I don't.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on April 1, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

So, either jobs flourish in a socialist state, or Obama hasn't imposed a socialist state. WHICH IS IT, REPUBS???

Posted by: dennis on April 1, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Congratulations, Democrats! The fruits of all your hard work put in place before the dangerous clowns took over is paying off. The economy is recovering and jobs are being created IN SPITE of the Republicans' best efforts to stall the economy and throw people out of work. Proud of you, Democrats! Someone needs to say that once in a while. Proud of you!

Posted by: June on April 1, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

cyclist, I'm seeing it fine via verizon DSL on Mac OSX in both Firefox and Safari.
But I've had similar frustrations when I've had too many windows open at once.
Plus, a tech-savvy friend once demonstrated to me that well over 50% of any behavior problems that I experience in the daily use of my toys go away with no more than closing and re-opening an app or re-starting the OS.
Hope this is of some use.

Posted by: smartalek on April 1, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but how many of these new jobs are at a living wage? With benefits? Being employed isn't the end of the story.

Posted by: tommybones on April 1, 2011 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I work at a place that does pre-employment vetting. March was our biggest month ever. Our previous biggest month was April 2007, with large declines after that. I'm hoping we're a leading indicator.

Posted by: Gretchen on April 1, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

As several commenters have pointed out, chances are that those new hires are not hired on the same (nowhere near) terms as they had in the jobs they'd lost. Lower base pay, smaller (if any) benefits such as pensions and health insurance, etc. A big hit in the pocket. Meanwhile, several states are working overtime to reduce the workers' "remedies", like collective bargaining, in the future. That is, people who are getting the jobs now may be happy for a while (half a oaf is better than no bread) but the idea that, with time, their situation is likely to improve, is a mirage. As soon as it percolates, people will go back to squeezing their pennies and passing up on non-essentials. In a country which heavily depends on consumption (often frivolous and ginned up by advertising), that's not a recipe for long term improvement of economy. Except, of course, for those who're doing the hiring.

Posted by: exlibra on April 1, 2011 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK


Now there's an excellent april fools joke.

Posted by: Marcia on April 1, 2011 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK



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