Finally, Signs Of A Recovery On The Jobs Front

Much like the buds starting to appear on the Cherry Blossom trees in Washington, D.C., February's jobs report offers some signs of new life for the labor market.

After two years of bad jobs reports, it’s easy to pick one month out and make too much out of it. Nonetheless, the just-released February jobs report provides much more than just a glimmer of hope that the nascent economic recovery may actually be trickling down to the rest of us:

America’s job engine picked up some steam last month.

The nation’s employers added 192,000 jobs on net in February, after having added just 63,000 jobs the previous month, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The February number was about what economists had been forecasting.

“Economic recoveries can be like a snowball rolling down a hill, in that it takes time to get some momentum,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “People hesitate until they feel that the recovery’s durable enough, and then they have a tendency to jump in. Maybe we’re finally getting to that jumping-in moment.”

The unemployment rate ticked down to 8.9 percent, falling below 9 percent for the first time in nearly two years. This rate, which comes from a separate survey and is based on the total number of Americans who want to work, has remained stubbornly high over the last year despite payroll growth. That is partly because the size of the working-age population has grown, and because the promise of more job opportunities has lured some discouraged workers back into the labor force.

Both the January and December numbers were revised higher — to 63,000 from 36,000 in January, and to 152,000 from 121,000 in December.

(…)

A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people working part-time because they could not find full-time jobs and those so discouraged that they have given up searching, was 15.9 percent in February, down from 16.1 percent in January. That left 13.7 million people still out of work.

Part of February’s numbers are likely attributable to picking up slack from January, when snowstorms slowed down economy activity in many parts of the country. Nonetheless, these numbers are in line with other economic statistics suggesting that the early part fo 2011 is seeing a real economic uptick that could finally be having an impact on the only thing that most American’s really care about, their own pocketbooks.

There are caveats, of course. There are still millions of people sitting outside the labor force after the recession, and returning them to full employment is going to be a difficult, if not impossible, task to achieve The rising price of oil, brought on by the myriad crises in the Middle East, could put a damper on any economic recovery we’re experiencing right now. And, of course, this could all be a one month anomaly. Nonetheless, this is good news and let’s hope it continues.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    At 196,000 jobs per month it will take 16 years to put the people who’ve lost their jobs since the start of the Great Recession back to work.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Just did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation. The average time from peak to peak in a post-war business cycle has been 70 months. The median time has been 74 months. I’d say we should expect another economic downturn in between 36 and 60 months. We should see a lot more job growth at this stage of the recovery and IMO suggestions that we should find the present results remotely acceptable should be treated with scorn.

    The economy’s on life support.

  3. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Nonetheless, this is good news and let’s hope it continues.

    It’s amazing how the passage of time can skew perceptions of “good news”. I remember when the unemployment rate under George W. Bush was 6% and everyone was complaining that the world was coming to an end. When first time unemployment claims were 55,000, the hue and cry was that the country was going to hell in a hand basket. And yet, this morning, I heard a financial advisor state on the radio that yesterday’s first time unemployment claims of 368,000 was “very low”.

    Gallup’s unemployment number is much more accurate, although I suspect even it is on the low side. There are still over 13M unemployed and over 8M employed on a part-time basis for economic reasons.

    This is far from good news.

  4. ponce says:

    Obama is moving towards bulletproof.

    Has a president ever run unopposed?

  5. mantis says:

    This is far from good news.

    Bad news then? How so?

  6. Moosebreath says:

    ponce,

    “Has a president ever run unopposed?”

    Not since James Monroe in 1820. Not gonna happen this time, either.

  7. wr says:

    PTM — That’s like complaining that people are relieved that a massive flood only caused several million dollars in damage because there was no water damage in the summer when it wasn’t flooding.

  8. markm says:

    During last months Government release of some it’s economic numbers was published a graph of real GDP with an overlay of real unemployment.

    In a nutshell, our output is at or very close to pre-recession levels…but with millions less employed. I’m not sure what to make of that other than it creeped me out.

  9. Drew says:

    Recovery? No. Stability? Yes.

    Look at the participation rate. And heed Dave Schuler’s remarks. This is a holding action right now. Another inevitable down cycle and its back into the, uh, crapper.

  10. Steven Plunk says:

    It seems we get some news like this only to have it later revised as not so good news. I wouldn’t expect anything different here.

    Doug mentions oil and rightly so. Every oil shock the US economy has endured has also led to higher unemployment. I guess there could be a first time it doesn’t but odds are it will. High oil erodes consumer confidence, it erodes business confidence, it actually removes disposable income, and it drives up costs for all goods through transportation expenses.

    The truly sad thing is there is more at play than just the turmoil overseas. Gulf drilling permits have just now been issued and that’s been an issue. Speculative money is still flooding the oil contracts market. In February speculators bought contracts for over 200,000,000 barrels in four days. They bought regardless of the fact the Nymex hub in Cushing, OK is essentially full and Bakken oil has put pipelines at capacity. Emotions are pushing oil up while reality holds no sway. Thank the CFTC for failure to curb speculation. Reminds you of the housing bubble, doesn’t it? Flip that house, flip that contract, make a mint. Government will regulate who cuts my hair, what my food labels say, how big highway signs need to be but they can’t do anything about what they already regulate in the futures markets?

    There may well be something of a recovery for some businesses but it isn’t hitting small businesses yet. I imagine there is some money trickling down from the “shovel ready” stimulus but too little too late to really help that much. They expect another housing price downturn, inflation should be coming along soon, unemployment remains high, and unfunded mandates for public pensions are still lurking. There’s still a great of bad news to offset this little bit of good.

  11. Time to eat the minstrels.

  12. anjin-san says:

    > Speculative money is still flooding the oil contracts market. In February speculators bought contracts for over 200,000,000 barrels in four days.

    What is your remedy? Government regulation?

  13. Wiley Stoner says:

    Yeah, Doug. 8.;9% is real improvement. What was it at when Obama took office? How many people have stopped looking for work? What are the real numbers? Wait until the cost of fuel takes effect.
    Anjin, no you fop, drilling for our own and developing the 1.1 trillion barrels available in oil shale in Colorado. This is kind of strange. Last year at this time we had the oil spill which shut down our production, this year we have trouble in the middle east fomented on the internet. Wonder if there is any connection? After all, BP did contribute a great deal of money to the Obama campaign.

  14. anjin-san says:

    > Wonder if there is any connection?

    Go off your meds for a few days and watch Beck a lot. The answers will become clear.

  15. mantis says:

    And there was much rejoicing.

  16. jwest says:

    Based on this administration’s record of releasing numbers that look good to banner headlines and wall-to-wall television coverage, only to have them issue “corrections” a few weeks later on page B-37 that no one sees, I’ll wait for real news.

  17. Barry says:

    Adding onto Dave’s comments, IIRC it takes 100K jobs/month to deal with the growth of the labor force. So the growth in jobs net growth in the labor force is less than 100K.

  18. Steve Plunk says:

    anjin,

    Conservatives acknowledge some regulatory schemes are necessary. The CFTC knows it has a problem with oil contracts yet can’t get anything done. We can’t rely on the free market to settle things if the government controls the resource through other regulations that restrict supply.

    Yes, some regulations need to be changed in order to restore the market to a rational basis.

    Please remember, a conservative or libertarian call for less government doesn’t mean no government. As with fire government is very useful yet must be tended and watched or it could hurt you.