Big zero on U.S. jobs a boost to policy activists

September 2, 2011
By Martin Hutchinson
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
The U.S. economy added no jobs in August. For believers, that provides fresh impetus for stimulus, both fiscal and monetary. Neither has much credibility based on recent history. But even proponents of such efforts must know the 9.1 percent jobless rate won’t come down in a hurry.

 

The details of Friday’s employment report were marginally positive, although the downward jobs revisions for June and July were disquieting. Private sector employment was affected by a strike at Verizon, which caused 45,000 temporary job losses. Adding those back, the private sector gained 62,000 jobs. Still, the trend is sluggish, workforce participation is significantly down over the past year, and long-term unemployment remains worse than in any post-war recession.

Politically, the failure to generate any jobs in August is fuel for President Barack Obama’s critics. But it is also pure gold for stimulus enthusiasts in his administration and at the Federal Reserve, both of which have forthcoming opportunities to push new measures. The president is due to address Congress on jobs on Sept. 8, and the Federal Open Market Committee will meet on Sept. 20 and 21.

Though no one can be sure what would have happened without them, neither fiscal nor monetary stimulus has proved conclusively effective, at least in recent iterations. Signs of short-term boosts from the former have quickly faded; the latter has brought banks ultra-cheap money but produced no great increase in lending to small business, a big generator of new jobs.

Meanwhile, low interest rates may have encouraged capital investment over hiring, holding back job creation. And the recent surge in regulatory activity could itself be contributing to employment sluggishness, either by adding costs or by creating uncertainty. The president’s decision on Friday to block an Environmental Protection Agency air quality rule is a nod in that direction, though arguably one grounded primarily in politics.

Both Obama and the Fed still appear inclined toward further stimulus, if they can secure the needed backing. But with the scale of any fiscal activity limited by politics and monetary policy facing diminishing returns, the job creation results are unlikely to be gratifying. The long-term unemployed must wait longer for significant relief.

Comments

According to the CBO the stimulus saved and created millions of jobs.

You can deny it all you want but the problem is that the middle class has no money to consume, the rich have plundered it all.

We need to tax big business on any cash they are sitting on and not investing.

Posted by toyotabedzrock | Report as abusive
 

To do that you have to agitate all the Mother Geese in this country enough to crack all the nest eggs they have collected, and then we can get some action in this country. Instead of sitting on them, they need to crack them and make breakfast.

Posted by laguardia23 | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/