Jobs Report Reax: Is The Recovery Losing Steam?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 6 2012 @ 12:19pm


Jared Bernstein worries about today's dismal jobs report:

[W]e may be at the beginning of another downshift in job growth or March’s disappointing report could be an anomalous blip down in a better underlying trend.  There’s some reason to hope for the latter—I noted the seasonality issues caused by the mild winter—but we could also be seeing the impact of higher gas prices on growth, real incomes, and consumption.  

Felix Salmon is slightly more upbeat:

[T]here’s bad news here, which is that judging by this one report, some of the steam might have gone out of the recovery. And there’s a little bit of good news too, which is that it’s just one report, not a trend, and that it has a very wide margin of error; that the economy’s still creating jobs, even if it’s not creating them as fast as we had hoped; and that it wasn’t all that long ago that a +120,000 headline figure would have been taken as something decidedly encouraging. 

Daniel Gross notes that this report conflicts with other economic data:

Other labor market indicators have been trending in a more positive direction. Weekly first time unemployment claims are at a four-year low. In March, layoff announcements fell sharply from the previous month. At the end of January, there were 3.46 million job openings in the U.S., up 21 percent from the number of openings in January 2011. Ultimately, however, the monthly payroll jobs figure is the one that matters most — for the economy at large, and for the politicians whose electoral success will depend in large measure on the payroll jobs figures for the next several months. We'll have to wait 30 days to see if March's report was an anomaly or the beginning of a new, disappointing trend.

Greg Ip explains how the unemployment rate ticked down:

[T]he fact the unemployment rate continues to fall when underlying economic growth is an unimpressive 2.5% is troubling evidence that swaths of the working age population are permanently withdrawing from working life. It is too soon to count out the American economy’s cyclical recovery. But the structural problems linger.

Calculated Risk, while admitting that the report was "disappointing," points out that it "wasn't all bad news":

It looks like the drag from state and local layoffs is nearing the end, the unemployment rate declined (although partially because of workers leaving the labor force), the number of people working part time for economic reasons declined, and the number of people unemployed for more than 6 months declined – and hourly wages increased a little faster.

Yglesias looks at the parts of the economy that are underperforming:

This does in part seem to be about weather phaseout, as "construction of buildings" subtracted 10,000 jobs. But an even bigger change was in retail trade which saw 38,000 job losses as part of what I have to think is the structural decline of retailing.

He later claims that retail is "facing a persistent decline driven by e-commerce" and that the problem is only going to get worse. Ed Kilgore considers the political implications:

You may recall Nate Silver’s projection in February that Obama’s “magic number”for job creation between now and November in order to put himself in a very strong position for re-election was 150,000 jobs per month. The economy is still slightly ahead of that pace on average, but the latest figures obviously did not help.

(Chart on job losses and gains by month from Calculated Risk)