By any measure, it’s a good sign for the economy when job growth tops 200,000 a month — for six months in a row. The 2008 recession took such a heavy toll that this kind of recovery number is what economists and policymakers look for.
But there was a downside to the upside number.
Payrolls increased by 209,000 in July, but that was down from 298,000 in June, and a measure of consumer confidence from the University of Michigan last week showed a dip.
That is now borne out from new Commerce Department statistics showing that retail sales were essentially flat in July.
The department said spending dipped at auto dealers and department stores, although there were gains at grocery stores, gasoline stations, restaurants, clothiers and building material stores.
Wage growth is the issue on the minds of economists now: “Consumers just don’t have the cash flow to finance sustained gains above 4 percent,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told The Associated Press.
Year-over-year, there is growth, with retail sales up 3.7 percent.
That is a solid enough growth rate, but it is yet another reminder that the depth and harshness of the 2008 recession has had long-lasting effects. It is one of the lessons of history that such a major financial crisis is more than a mere supply-and-demand downturn.
What is the good news? It is that jobs are up, helping many families still struggling and needing another income.
On the micro level for us in Louisiana, despite some sluggishness in the state statistics, the future looks pretty bright. Industrial construction should be a significant driver of the economy as major projects get underway in the petrochemical corridors of the Mississippi and Calcasieu rivers.
The low price and abundance of natural gas help us out, even as there is the underlying tug of the national economy’s start-and-stop recovery.
In August, back-to-school spending might well help the numbers that will be reported later by the Commerce Department, but that too is going to be sensitive to the national job market and national economic trends.
No man is an island, wrote the poet John Donne, and that is a good economics lesson, even as Louisiana benefits from the petrochemical surge.