A worker is a terrible thing to waste

April 9, 2012

How bad is the U.S. employment situation? The Labor Department’s tally for March, which showed only 120,000 new jobs were created, raised doubts about the sustainability of a recent pick up in job growth. But to get a broader sense of what things are really like it helps to put things in a longer-term perspective.

Even with the 3.6 million new jobs created during the recovery, some 5 million more are needed just to make up for all of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession. At March’s pace, it would take nearly four more years to get there – and that’s not accounting for population growth.

If job growth remains at tepid clip of around 150,000 a month, it would take five years for the jobless rate, which registered 8.2 percent in March, to fall to 6 percent, according to Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank economist Julie Hotchkiss.

Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research says that, while the March figure very likely reflects some payback for the stronger activity seen during the earlier months of an unusually warm winter, the long term outlook remains bleak.

The weaker job growth in the March data is primarily an artifact of the weather. However the 212,000 average job gain over the last three months is not especially strong. It implies a return to full employment some time in 2019.


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