Friday, October 5, 2012

US October Jobs Report

Yes the headlines will all be about how there was a significant drop in the unemployment rate from 8.1% to 7.8%.  I say significant because psychologically a drop from the 8 range to the 7 range has a big impact, but otherwise it is still pretty modest 0.3% drop (and psychology matters a lot, mind).  What we should be focusing on, as I have said all along, is the jobs numbers and even at 114,000 this is a very anemic number - barely eclipsing the growth of the labor force.  A robust recovery would look like 250,000 to 300,000 jobs.

Still, I suppose it gives Obama the headline number he is looking for going into the election, though arguably Romney has the stronger talking point about job growth.

In better news, revisions the jobs numbers for July (revised upward by 40,000 to 181,000) and for August (by 46,000 to 142,000) suggest a lot stronger job growth over the summer than we thought. Not 'robust' by any stretch of the imagination, but very solid numbers suggesting a growing economy.  This gives Obama a pretty strong talking point himself and a pretty solid platform to suggest the economy is on the right track if not yet up to speed.

Both arguments are valid in my view: yes we are on the right track and recovering, but we are also recovering very slowly.  I'll show my cards (well not really, I have mentioned this many times here) and say I am in the camp that thinks a more forceful stimulus response is what we needed (remember my cries for block grants to the states?) and that austerity is exactly the wrong response to this particular crisis.  

But I am getting a bit too far into the political weeds here and simply say that as an economist I am still disappointed in these numbers and won't be happy until we have a string of 200,000-plus job growth months. But we are getting there and I blame Europe mostly for the current headwinds but I am worried about China going forward.

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