Jobs Reax: Another Weak Month

Andrew Sullivan —  May 4 2012 @ 10:30am


Greg Ip helpfully unpacks today's underwhelming jobs report. The basics:

America’s labour market has disappointed, once again raising questions about whether the economic recovery is truly entrenched. Nonfarm payrolls rose just 115,000 in April from March. While the unemployment rate dipped to 8.1%, the lowest since early 2009, from 8.2%, it did so for the wrong reason: the labour force (those working or looking for work) shrank by 342,000.

Felix Salmon thinks the big news is that a "a whopping 522,000 people left the labor force last month":

As Mike Konczal noted this morning, a key indicator of labor recession is still in force: if you’re unemployed, you’re still more likely to drop out of the labor force entirely than you are to find a job. And as Dan Alpert noted, in a country of 314 million people, there are only 115 million full-time workers and 27 million part-time workers. It’s really hard to get a robust recovery when the number of people earning money is so anemic.

Jared Bernstein blames austerity:

State and local governments continue to shed jobs.  They would be my first target for stimulus in a sane world.  Last month, local education jobs were down 11,000 and they’re down about 100,000 over the last year.  Next time your friendly politician is jawboning about a) the benefits of austerity and spending cuts, and b) the importance of education, please point out the hypocrisy.

Ezra Klein looks on the bright side:

One year ago, the good months were based on real hiring, and when they ended, we were still creating jobs — just not as many as we wanted to be. And this year, the good months were the best months we've had so far. And if they've been interrupted, it's by job growth that's still well over 100,000 a month — which is a lot better than how the previous cycles of high expectations ended.

So does Jamelle Bouie:

[T]he big picture is better than you might think; we’ve added 1.8 million private sector jobs in the last year and brought the unemployment rate down by a full percentage point. Job growth could be stronger—and the Federal Reserve, in particular, could do much more—but the United States is in recovery. The problem, simply put, is that it’s a weak one.

Leonhardt believes the coming months  could "bring roughly 175,000 net new jobs per month, on average":

Just as sober economists understood that the burst of economic growth and hiring at the end of late 2011 and start of 2012 was probably fleeting, there is reason to think the weak growth of the last two months may not last, either. The true underlying trend may be somewhere between the good news of January and February (caused in part by warm weather, which pulled forward various spending) and the disappointing news of March and April (because some spending that would normally have happened then instead happened earlier).

Chart from Calculated Risk. More charts on the jobs crisis here.