Counterparties: America’s consistently dissatisfying jobs market
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America’s jobs market seems to have found its boring, dissatisfying comfort zone.
The Labor Department announced today that the US economy added 175,000 thousand jobs in May. (Unemployment ticked up a notch to 7.6%.) Matthew O’Brien writes that this is basically the same thing that’s been happening for the past two and a half years. “There were 175,000 new jobs a month in 2011, 183,000 in 2012, and 189,000 so far in 2013.” Kevin Roose thinks “there’s something to be said for this kind of quiet, steady progress”.
For all its consistency, the labor market has been subpar. The percentage of Americans participating in the workforce has fallen steadily over the last four years. The government continues to cut jobs, putting increasing importance on private sector job growth. (Annie Lowrey has the details of how government cuts are becoming much deeper thanks to sequestration.) The scariest US jobs chart is still terrifying.
At the current rate of job creation, employment, on an absolute level, won’t reach pre-crisis levels until late 2014, a full 8 years since the recession began. The Chicago Fed estimates that the economy needs to create 80,000 jobs per month to have a chance at making a dent in unemployment. Multiples of that may actually be needed to bring down unemployment, as more Americans return to the workforce. The Chicago Fed also projects that a return to full employment (where the unemployed are workers between jobs but still in the workforce) could take another five years, a timetable that, Matthew Klein writes, “puts the US on track for a lost decade”.
Wall Street is rooting for things to get ever so slightly worse, hoping to stave off any decrease in the Fed’s bond buying programs. Fed-whisperer Jon Hilsenrath reports that if the economy continues to grow at its current pace, the Fed will slow bond purchasing later this year.
Ryan Avent concludes that the Fed is perfectly happy for the US outlook to be consistently gloomy with rays of hope:
178,000 jobs per month seems to be the Fed’s good-enough-rate… It is hard to see the logic in that; there are few things more damaging to an economy than a prolonged period of high unemployment. But there is no sign that policymakers are interested in any other path.
— Ben Walsh
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