By now everyone has heard about the latest jobs report. I’m going to repeat myself. It isn’t time to cheer. It is time to figure out how to get the millions of Americans who are trying to get work, back to work. We haven’t gotten there yet. There are still more than four job seekers for every job out there. We have to get this economy going. This is a start. It is a good start.
The labor market started off 2012 with a nice surprise. The January 2012 employment situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a labor market with all parts seemingly moving in a solid direction. Payroll employment growth of 243,000 was matched by a decrease in the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent, strong household employment growth, and a growing share of the population with jobs (after removing the effect of BLS’ annual population reweighting). Furthermore, December’s jobs number was revised upward by 266,000 (which included not only the routine monthly revision of earlier data, but also the annual benchmark revision, updated birth/death model adjustments, and new seasonal adjustment factors).
It’s important, though, to keep all this in context. The U.S. labor market started 2012 with fewer jobs than it had 11 years ago in January 2001—a testament to both the enormity of the current labor market crisis as well as the very weak job growth of the 2000–07 business cycle. The jobs deficit is so large that even at January’s growth rate, it would still take until 2019 to get back to full employment. We need reports this strong and stronger for the next several years to get back to a healthy labor market.