The economic outlook is often a game of expectations, and in that regard the employment picture took a beating last month.
Overall, the nation lost 131,000 jobs in July; the forecast had been for 65,000. Private-sector jobs were expected to increase by 90,000; instead, only 71,000 were added. We knew that 143,000 temporary Census jobs would end in June, but the public sector lost another 59,000 jobs beyond that. The job-loss figure for June had been pegged at 125,000; this past week, it was revised upward to 221,000.
The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent, but only because 181,000 people gave up and quit looking for work.
President Barack Obama put a good face on the figures, noting that the private sector had added jobs for seven straight months and that hard-hit manufacturing had added 183,000 jobs in that time, “the most robust seven months of manufacturing growth in over a decade.” And manufacturing did add 36,000 jobs in July after adding 13,000 in June, but that has to be seen against the backdrop of a work force in which 14.6 million people are looking for jobs.
As uninspiring as the July numbers were, analysts said they weren’t gloomy enough to point to another downturn, the dreaded double dip.
Obama counseled that “climbing out of any recession, much less a hole as deep as this one, takes some time. The road to recovery doesn’t follow a straight line. ... So what we need to do is to keep pushing forward. We can’t go backwards.”
Nor is there much else the president can do. The House is returning to Washington for final passage of a $26.1 billion bill to save 160,000 teaching jobs (a key Democratic constituency, of course) and pay states’ Medicaid bills, but that will be the last stimulus measure of this Congress.
Unless the jobs picture improves dramatically in the next three months, things are likely to go badly for the Democrats this November. With corporate profits near all-time highs and companies sitting on record amounts of cash, it’s possible there could be an abrupt upturn before then — but no one’s betting on it.
—Marietta Daily Journal