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Jobs: Good News and Bad News

April 2nd, 2004

The good news here helps Bush out some, and you can bet that after their long string of goofs, offenses, felonies and generally shooting themselves in the foot, they are going to take this one morsel and milk it within an inch of its life. After hugely disappointing job growth over the past 6-8 months, still 3 million jobs in the hole, March brings good news: 308,000 jobs were added to the workforce. Good news for you and your neighbors, but expect an overly-exuberant Bush White House to make this sound like every single thing Bush has done since January 2001 is now fully vindicated, end of story, go home and vote for Bush.

Of course, there is bad news, news which they won’t tell you about. For example, at the very minimum, 150,000 jobs must be gained every month just to tread water, because that number is needed to match population growth. Now look at the first three months of the year: January, 97,000; February, 21,000; and March, 308,000. That’s a total of 426,000 new jobs since the start of the year. In order to break even, we needed a minimum of 450,000. And that’s not even counting the deficient numbers for job growth since last August. Just for this year alone, we’re still 24,000 jobs in the hole, and in terms of how many jobs are needed to signal a recovery from the recession, we’re between 175,000 and 475,000 jobs behind. But what you’ll hear from the right wing is how this far exceeded expectations of 123,000 jobs–and they won’t tell you that the expectations were for poor growth, depressed because they expected a bad showing, and predictors had been embarrassed by way overestimating numbers in past months.

And there are more mitigating circumstances: 72,000 of those jobs for March were due to the end of a supermarket strike in southern California. Subtract those numbers and the totals are even less impressive. Also, the new jobs do not include any manufacturing jobs. these numbers just came out now, and so I can’t find details on exactly what the bulk of the jobs are

Nevertheless, the White House will no doubt spin this as just the beginning of a jobs boom, and true, that may be–but remember, in January, we thought we had an increase in job growth, up to 112,000, and that was touted as ‘just the beginning’ also–until February numbers were 21,000, and they downgraded the January figures by 15,000. April numbers will be better to indicate whether this is the beginning of a surge, or just another high blip with a disappointing follow-through.

One should also keep in mind that unemployment went up from 5.6% to 5.7%, mostly because more people renewed job hunting, and were unable to find jobs–a reminder that there are millions of people out there with no jobs, but who are not counted in the numbers.

Overall, a very mixed bag. Let’s see where it takes us. And in the meantime, don’t let the endless gleeful gloating by the Republicans get your hopes up–you’re still more likely to get a job at burger King than you are to get one at Chrysler. Wait and see where this takes us.

On the one hand, I really hope people find jobs. On the other hand, after doing such a botched-up job with the economy for more than three years, it galls me that Bush might get re-elected simply because of an arbitrary upsurge right near the election–and if it helps him out with votes, it might also help Bush to sell the ludicrous idea that excessively huge tax cuts for millionaires somehow bring about modest job growth three years later–and then we’ll all really be screwed. Four more years of this and the country will be utterly shot to hell. I hate to say it, but I kind of hope that a recovery will wait until December; better that a few people wait a few more months for jobs than to let the most recklessly dangerous president in recent memory to crush their hopes and dreams for several more years.

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  1. April 3rd, 2004 at 04:36 | #1

    One of my friends and I were talking, and even though he’s a very diehard liberal, he hopes that bush gets reelected. Because after another 4 years of him, there won’t be another republican in the whitehouse in his life time. There will be such a backlash against everything conservative, and right wing that it will last for decades.

  2. Kate
    April 3rd, 2004 at 09:03 | #2

    Sorry Wil, I can’t agree with you, the country needs Bush out of the White House as soon as possible. I go along with Luis, Bush and Co. is too dangerous to keep in power for another 4 years. Unfortunately, people tend to have short memories for this kind of stuff. Bush has been saying for months (years?) that the country is on the road to recovery but he’s never really been able to produce any proof(this month’s job numbers aren’t much if they’re just KFC jobs). Then there’s all the fallout from 9/11, Richard Clarke and O’Neill, Iraq and Afganistan, etc.. There’s so much nasty garbage for the country and a new president to dig out of now, we can’t chance another 4 years on the off chance that we won’t have another Repuglican in the White House.

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