In this new “rough and tumble” economic era, 117,000 sounds like a lot.
$117,000 dollars. 117,000 shares of stock. 117,000 jobs?
Well, in all but one of those cases, you’d be right. In July, the American economy beat expectations by adding 117,000 new jobs to the current market and dropping the unemployment rate from 9.2 to 9.1%.
But what was truly great about this news of six-digit job growth was that it well eclipsed the paltry figures of positions added only one month earlier in June. Back then, economists had anticipated the June report would show about 120,000 private sector jobs added to the economy — barely enough to keep pace with population growth. Instead, the gain was a staggeringly low 18,000 net jobs, pushing the unemployment rate up from 9.1 percent to 9.2 percent.
Nevertheless, if you’re reading closely, you’ll notice something else: 120,000 new jobs per month is barely enough to keep pace with the number of new people coming in to the labor market due to population growth. And so, while any good news is “good news” in the new economy, the truth is 117,00 jobs still isn’t a lot…or enough.
And many are saying this new small growth can’t last.
In a report from the national radio series Marketplace, “So Where’s the Job Market Really?,” reporter Mitchell Hartman contrasts the new June numbers with the long-term reality of the job market.
“You know, one jobs report can't really undo months of incredibly weak job creations,” said Hartman. “Since May, we've just added about 70,000 jobs a month on average. Economists say we need at least double that. That's just to keep up with all the people who enter the workforce just in the normal course of events. So what happened is the dust cleared this week from the horrible debt ceiling fight and we got a lousy economic back.”
The outlook isn’t all bad. As Hartman points out, private companies are continuing to hire, and other people are finding jobs in health care, retail, and even the hard-hit area of manufacturing.
But he’s also quick to acknowledge, there are “more clouds on the horizon.”
Hartman adds, “First off, August has started off terribly. Market panic and the debt crisis, so employers may already be cutting back on hiring and we won't know that for a while. Then, at the end of the year, Congress is gonna have to make some big decisions about whether to continue paying extended unemployment benefits to millions of people, also whether to extend the payroll tax cut. Ultimately, I don't think the job situation can really get better until the rest of the economy does. So it kinda all has to happen together.”
These are dark clouds indeed when you consider that the average U.S. worker is unemployed for nine months before finding a job; with many Americans remaining jobless for well over a year or two years before finding work, if at all.
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