A big h/t to beloved FellowshipOfMinds member Tom in NC!
Today was the day for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to roll out the jobless numbers. The Obama administration was so nervous that it braced for the worst, warning us not to expect too much because the recent severe snowstorms that hit the East coast especially hard may have depressed the payroll count — as if the United States had never had a cold winter with big snowstorms before.
So when the announcement was made this morning that the nation’s jobless rate “was steady at 9.7%” — even though U.S. nonfarm payrolls declined for the 25th time in the past 26 months, falling by 36,000 in February — there was a palpable sigh of relief in Washington.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is so relieved, he crows about how happy he is that “only 36,000 Americans lost their jobs!” Tell that to one of those 36,000 who became unemployed last month.
Reid’s jubilation is not only insensitive, it is also premature, if not entirely misplaced, for the following reasons:
- Some analysts said the labor market remains weak, with or without the snowstorms. “What we see in this report is essentially a job market on pause,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “The pace of decline has slowed dramatically, but jobs are not being created to put this country’s nearly 15 million unemployed back to work.”
- The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was 6.1 million in February and has been about that level since December. About 4 in 10 unemployed persons have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.
- The number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased from 8.3 to 8.8 million in February. These individuals are working part-time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
- Another worrisome sign is that 32,000 of the 308,000 new jobs created last month are temporary jobs in the “temporary help services” category.
- The wages of those who are employed are not keeping up with inflation. Last month, average hourly earnings rose 0.1%. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings are up 1.9%, compared with a 2.7% rise in consumer prices. “What should not go overlooked are the lackluster gains seen in the income components of the report,” wrote Dan Greenhaus, economic strategist for Miller Tabak & Co. With the hours worked falling, average weekly earnings dropped 0.4%.