Political Animal


September 02, 2011 8:55 AM August job totals: Zero

By Steve Benen

While we waited this morning for the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report, one of the big questions was, “Did the economy added or lost jobs in the month of August?” The answer, apparently, was, “Neither.”

For the first time in six decades, the U.S. simply broke even — no jobs were lost in the overall economy, and no jobs were gained. The unemployment rate held steady at 9.1%.

The private sector gained 17,000 jobs in August, while the public sector lost 17,000 jobs due entirely to budget cuts at the state and local level.

It’s worth noting that the figures are skewed a bit by the Verizon strike, which has since been resolved. The labor dispute temporarily subtracted 45,000 jobs from the economy, so when that’s taken into consideration, the overall economy actually added 45,000 jobs in August, which was roughly in line with expectations.

But that’s cold comfort in the midst of a prolonged jobs crisis. Just to keep up with population growth, the economy should be adding over 150,000 jobs a month. To bring down the unemployment rate quickly, we’d look for 300,000 jobs a month or more. This report reinforces the impression that the economy is just stalled, waiting for someone to give it a boost.

It’s a boost, of course, that congressional Republicans are desperate to prevent.

Making matters slightly worse, the revised totals from June and July were both revised downwards.

August, to be sure, was a brutal month all around. Wall Street took wild swings; Republican antics led to a downgrade in U.S. debt; the European debt crisis intensified, etc. The fact that hiring effectively halted in the month is not shocking.

But it is painful, and serves as yet another wake-up call to anyone who’ll listen: we have a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis. If our political system were in any way sane, elected leaders would look at these numbers and conclude that the economy desperately needs an immediate jolt. Job creation should be the first, and arguably only, priority on the minds of policymakers.

And with that, 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 is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • walt on September 02, 2011 9:04 AM:

    It's a good day to be a Republican. We'll hear how Keynesian economics failed. How only cutting taxes can unleash the productivity of the American worker (by making their bosses richer). And that Herbert Hoover is finally vindicated.

    Nations fail for many reasons. Ours is failing primarily because we don't tell the truth, which in turn means our entire political discourse is contaminated with fecal matter.

    If only we had a president who understood the fierce urgency of now. Instead, more bipartisanship.

  • c u n d gulag on September 02, 2011 9:06 AM:

    "We, as a party, need to work harder to achieve less jobs.
    August's 'Zero Jobs Growth' is not acceptable, and heads will roll until the job report tumbles.
    Bonuses for plummeting!

    Continue to see to it that you call everyone of our efforts to kill jobs and the economy as 'creating jobs,' and every effort by the President and the Democrats to improve things as 'job killing.'

    Remember, whatever you can do to make things worse for America now and for the next year, will only make things better for you and our party in 2012.


  • Todd for VT House on September 02, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Perhaps hiring will improve if the GOP holds the economy hostage again.

  • mk3872 on September 02, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Nowhere can you find anyone clearly pointing out that for the past 8 months in 2011, nearly ALL job LOSSES are directly caused by Republican state & local government decisions to CUT and LAYOFF workers.

  • KurtRex1453 on September 02, 2011 9:10 AM:

    Most of the US economy is driven by consumer spending. So, HOW will tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations increase demand? How will tax cuts increase wages so the vast majority of people have more money to buy things? Answer they will not. The only things tax cuts for the wealthy will do is increase the profits of foreign luxury good providers. So if you want to see more people walking down the street carrying purses from Chanel that cost approximately 10,000 meals, vote for the GOP next fall.

  • sjw on September 02, 2011 9:12 AM:

    So, read the above by Benen and then put it together with what you also read in Ezra Klein's blog today: Obama isn't actively supporting a "fix" to the supercommittee for jobs; he is afraid of more stimulus because it will provoke more gridlock and then possibly a second downgrade by the ratings agencies; his big speech won't contain specifics but he intends to wait for Congress to work out the details; he believes the best way forward is to continue his push for bipartisanship.

    Is Obama mental????

  • FRP on September 02, 2011 9:13 AM:

    There'll be bluebirds over
    The white cliffs of Dover ,
    Just you wait and see .

    There'll be joy and laughter
    And peace ever after ,
    When the world is free ,

    The shepherd will count his sheep
    The valleys will bloom again ,
    And Jimmy will go to sleep
    In his own little room again ,

    Like the embezzlers

    One more dollar

    Like the grizzled sergeants

    One more hill boys

    Our Oligarchs personalised taunt

    You , hear my boasting

    One drop of blood less

    We own you , yes

    What we say is left

  • JOHN KIRBY on September 02, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Don't worry liberals next month your hero's monthly unemployment numbers will be adjusted downward again.

  • FRP on September 02, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Americans are people too JOHN KIRBY

  • Neo on September 02, 2011 12:04 PM:

    "President Obama abruptly pulled back proposed new national smog standards Friday morning, overruling the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to compel states and communities nationwide to reduce local air pollution in the coming years or face federal penalties."

    President Obama was saying just the other day that these regulation have little impact on the economy. Now even that "little impact" needs to be removed.

    This is desperation.

  • Neo on September 02, 2011 12:10 PM:

    KurtRex1453 on September 02, 2011 9:10 AM:

    Most of the US economy is driven by consumer spending. So, HOW will tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations increase demand?

    The cruel truth: "Poor people don't invest"

    It takes investment to create new jobs, with or without consumer spending

  • Johnny Tremaine on September 02, 2011 1:58 PM:

    Investment doesn't happen in a vacuum; it's backed by a proposed forecast that assumes some kind of profit is to be had.

    The people who are spending, whom that investment is based upon?

    Oh yeah, they're consumers, Joe Average.

  • Doug on September 02, 2011 11:00 PM:

    Neo @ 12:04 PM, you may wish to read the NYT's article about this topic. There's a link to it in Friday's Mini-report.
    That is, of course, presuming you DO read items other than the talking points from Mr. Luntz's focus groups...