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Unemployment languishes at 6.7 percent

Unemployment languishes at 6.7 percent

In an America of diminished expectations, we’re apparently expected to celebrate when job creation keeps pace with population growth.  The March unemployment report was (of course) “unexpectedly” weak, and the headline unemployment rate remained stuck at a dismal 6.7 percent years into an alleged “recovery,” but the workforce didn’t shrink, so yay.

Feel the fierce urgency of “meh” from this Associated Press report:

U.S. employers added jobs at a solid pace in March in the latest sign that the economy is rebounding from a weak stretch brought on by a harsh winter.

The Labor Department says employers added 192,000 jobs, slightly below February’s total of 197,000. Employers also added a combined 37,000 more jobs in February and January than previously estimated.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. But a half-million Americans started looking for work last month, and most of them found jobs. The increase in job-seekers is a sign that they are more optimistic about their prospects.

March’s job gain nearly matches last year’s average monthly total, suggesting that the job market has mostly recovered from the previous months’ severe winter weather.

So March was worse than February, which was supposed to be inexplicably weak due to the stunning discovery that the global-warming nuts are wrong and winter is still cold… and that’s good news?

It’s not a horrible report, but watching some Administration-friendly analysts fall all over each other to describe it as “strong” or “solid” is hilarious, especially since a couple of days ago they were predicting much stronger job growth.  It’s good that the workforce stopped shrinking, and even regenerated a bit, but that has to be measured against years of malaise.  Holding “steady” isn’t so great when it’s a steady 6.7 percent unemployment, the past was awful, and (as always) we don’t know what the future will bring.

Forbes strikes the right note when reporting the news:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released mediocre jobs numbers Friday. The results were strong enough to keep the markets in the green but brought little joy to jobs watchers.

Employers added 192,000 jobs in March, slightly below the 200,000 economists expected. The unemployment rate, which is drawn from a different survey of households, remained steady at 6.7%. The labor force participation rate came in at 63.2%, up slightly from February. The employment-population ratio was 58.9 %, also just a tick about February’s number.

Employment numbers were revised up by 22,000 for February bringing the headline number to plus 197,000 jobs. January payroll was revised up 15,000 from 129,000 to plus 144,000, total employment gains those months were therefore 37,000 greater than previously reported. Job growth averaged 183,000 in the prior 12 months.

We have to do a lot better than this, and fast.  Not only are there future crises that will require economic strength to overcome, but the workforce deteriorates the longer it remains at three- or four-decade lows.  Long-term unemployment atrophies job skills, makes resumes less attractive to employers, and increases the danger of tumbling into government dependency.  The longer our economy putters along in low gear, the harder it will be to resume the levels of performance we need.

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