Today’s news from the Labor Department shows U.S. unemployment down to 7.7% on job growth of 146,000. That’s good news unless you are hoping for a reversal that you can pin on the current administration, but let’s not go there.
A related piece in the Times this morning by Kenneth S. Baer and Jeffrey B. Liebman, printed prior to the announcement, gives good perspective:
“With more than 200,000 boomers exiting the labor force each month through retirement, the rule of thumb that the economy needs to add 140,000 jobs per month to keep up with population growth no longer holds. The new normal is 100,000, which is why 150,000 new jobs a month has brought the unemployment rate from 9.5 percent to 7.9 percent over the last two years.
So the economy is healing though not nearly fast enough and as Paul Krugman also notes in the Times today, this still means millions of people not working and that comes at a cost.
“When willing workers endure forced idleness society as a whole suffers from the waste of their efforts and talents. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that what we are actually producing falls short of what we could and should be producing by around 6 percent of G.D.P., or $900 billion a year.
So there’s no reason to celebrate beyond noting that it’s good news, of a sort.