Headline writers were bending over backward today to scribble upbeat words on the economy.
“Layoffs slow,” “Joblessness Less Than Expected,” and “Fewest Job Cuts Since November.”
Everybody wants the economy to bounce back. But the question is: Back to What?
Back to the Future.
Many people are now taking jobs requiring far less qualifications than the applicants possess: meaning that people are more highly trained than the economy is ready to support with jobs. As the skill levels of our population rise: the economy expected to fulfill the hopes of better, higher paying jobs with benefits is not keeping pace.
But to the government: if you have a job you are not unemployed. If your job now pays $20,000 but you once earned $120,000 you are employed, as far as government statistics tracking jobs can tell.
More good news: 66,000 people were hired into the government in April to help with the census.
That’s government creating government jobs.
Stuart Varney of Fox News says, “Private employers are still aggressively cutting jobs.”
Companies also kept a tight rein on workers hours. The average work week in April stayed at 33.2 hours, matching the record low set in March.
If you don’t work a 40 hour week you have little in benefits….
The government job statistics don’t tell you very much unless one looks closely….
America edges closer to the Third World as a job supplier: not further away and more toward “prosperity.”
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WASHINGTON – The pace of layoffs slowed in April when employers cut 539,000 jobs, the fewest in six months. But the unemployment rate climbed to 8.9 percent, the highest since late 1983, as many businesses remain wary of hiring given all the economic uncertainties.
The Labor Department tally released Friday wasn’t nearly as deep as the 620,000 job cuts that economists were expecting, and was helped by a burst of government hiring. The rise in the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent in March matched economists’ forecasts.
The new report underscored the toll the longest recession since World War II has taken on America’s workers and companies. However, the slowdown in layoffs may bolster hopes that the worst of the recession’s hefty job losses are past.
Still, companies will remain cautious in hiring, making it harder for laid-off workers to find new jobs.
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By Chrystia Freeland
An influential Democrat who was also one of the world’s top-ten, highest-paid hedge fund managers last year thinks he knows which book is at the top of the White House reading list this spring: Animal Spirits, the powerful new blast of behavioural economics from Nobel prize-winner George Akerlof and Yale economist Robert Shiller.
Judging by the upbeat economic message we have been hearing from the White House, the Treasury and even the Federal Reserve over the past six weeks, that is a shrewd guess. The authors argue that “we will never really understand important economic events unless we confront the fact that their causes are largely mental in nature”. Our “ideas and feelings” about the economy are not purely a rational reaction to data and experience; they themselves are an important driver of economic growth – and decline.
Since mid-March President Barack Obama and his team have mounted a sophisticated effort to brighten those “ideas and feelings”, reassuring the nation with “glimmers of hope across the economy” and the assertion that “we’re starting to see progress”. The much bally-hooed stress tests – whose comprehensively leaked results were fully unveiled after the markets closed on Thursday – are both an important example of this confidence-building campaign and its toughest challenge.
The sunnier rhetoric of recent weeks marked a sharp shift both from the bleak mood of the fin de regime administration of George W. Bush and from the first weeks of the Obama White House. The outgoing president’s political capital was so low in his final months in office that the mere fact of his public appearances seemed to have a depressing effect on the markets. His secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulson, enjoyed greater confidence, but he needed to convince lawmakers the situation was dire enough to merit his $700bn Tarp programme.
Likewise, Mr Obama needed the nation to be worried enough about the economy to pass his nearly $800bn stimulus plan. And too much good cheer in the first days of his administration could have wasted one of his most powerful trump cards – the country’s belief that this recession is owned by president number 43, not number 44.
But once the stimulus bill was passed, the White House calculated that, as Mr Obama told the Financial Times, lawmakers and US voters had reached their limits. No new money to rev up the economy or revive the banks would be forthcoming until the president and his team could demonstrate concrete results from the first instalment.
Since then Americans have been hearing a decidedly more optimistic vibe from Washington. It has seemed to work. A Google search for the term “economic recovery” turned up 6,991 references to the term in January and 7,831 in February. In the first week of May the phrase occurred 24,443 times.
More traditional yardsticks show the same result. According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, Americans’ belief that their country is heading in the right direction has soared from 19 per cent, just before Mr Obama’s inauguration, to 50 per cent, the highest in six years. In what could be a textbook example of behavioural economics, the stock market has followed the same curve, recovering from what rightwing commentators were calling “the Obama bear market” at the beginning of the year to a healthy rally.
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