Slow clap for payroll employment

Not that the internet needs another post about this morning’s jobs report, but I’ll have you notice that I don’t post about this every month either. In short, it’s disappointing:

With revisions we have 80,000 jobs in June; 77,000 jobs in May; and 68,000 in April. Three makes a trend is the rule of journalism, so that is definitely a new weak trajectory for job growth. You’d need about 200,000 new jobs a month to be making meaningful progress toward reducing the unemployment rate. The good news, such as it is, is that the trajectory is upwards. That’s visible in the headline jobs numbers and in the fact that both wages and hours worked went up in the June report. But I think it’s clear that we’re settling on a no-recovery path.

My emphasis in bold, of course. Much of the talk on the last three jobs reports has centered on disappointment, stagnation, hysteresis, etc. That’s all well and good, I suppose, and the criticism aimed towards Congress and the Federal Reserve is richly justified:

How will policymakers respond, and how should they respond?

Let’s start with the Fed. It has a stated inflation target of 2% – not only is inflation below this target, the Fed also expects it to be below target for the next two-and-a-half years. Moreover, unemployment remains well above normal levels. Given its stated framework for monetary policy, it’s baffling that the Fed hasn’t acted more aggressively.

 […]Next, Congress. With interest rates at zero, now is the ideal time for fiscal policy to provide some economic push. But the Republican-controlled Congress is doing nothing. Nada. Not a thing. They’re running for re-election. Many congressional Republicans are worried that any sort of fiscal action will lead the Tea Party to target them. In any case, a strengthening economy would be good for a president they’re determined to defeat.

I’m stunned to report that in both policy and political circles, most commentators take the fact that Congress will do nothing as simply a pre-ordained constraint. That’s just not the right framing. In reality, it’s an enormous dereliction of duty. Congressional leaders are important economic policy-makers, and they’re turning their collective backs on conventional economics. It’s cliched, but true: if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.

Yet standing in the face of such a strong and negative outlook the fact still remains that growth is up:

And payroll employment growth, however tepid and insufficient (for lowering the unemployment rate), is still up:

Is it enough? Of course not. The point is that…all things being even and considered, we’re still looking up. That still counts for something.


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