We don’t want to pour cold water on a new report on solid job growth in the U.S. economy, but if you want the data to gleam, listen to the White House’s extraordinary waxing and buffing job.
It’s the sharpest drop in the unemployment rate in three decades! It’s the longest run of increases in private-sector jobs in two decades! It’s the fastest annual growth since 2006! It’s — well what it isn’t is enough.
President Barack Obama is on a bit of a victory lap on the jobs report, in which unemployment fell to 6.1 percent and more than 288,000 new jobs were reported in May. That’s a significant rebound from the winter-wracked first quarter and a new sign of robustness in the economy overall.
Yet, the analysts, here and abroad, also see the less-than-gleaming elements of the data, including the significant number of people who have been out of work for months or years. White House aide Jason Furman says long-term joblessness remains “unacceptably high” but that roughly half the decline in unemployment over the past year has been from the long-term unemployed.
Furman is chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and he sees another bright spot — while workforce participation remained steady, unemployment declined “entirely due to people getting jobs,” rather than with more dropping out of the economy. Workforce participation at 62 percent is still pretty low.
There is, nevertheless, good growth across a range of industries, from tech to finance to restaurants and bars. The state and local governments hard hit by revenue declines in the 2008 recession are starting to add jobs, although state and local revenue sources — such as sales taxes — tend to trail economic growth in generating revenues.
Growth in people’s paychecks has not kept pace with the recovery, and that suggests that even with the elbow-grease that the president and others put on the data, it’s not likely to be a big help for hard-pressed Democrats in the fall elections. Still, it’s far better for incumbents such as U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to face the voters in the fall with a growing economy, instead of the faltering one that we have seen since 2008.
The notion that all is well, that the new-model Obamamobile with its job numbers polished is the hottest car on the market, is obviously a bit far-fetched in today’s economy. Nor are we encouraged as the president continues to sit on projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, a job-generator that is stalled by the White House’s politics.
The May jobs report is, nevertheless, good news. We hope American business can keep it up.