It's hard to get excited about this morning's jobs numbers. You feel the same way, don't you? All I had to do was mention this morning's jobs numbers and you felt your eyelids growing heavy, your head involuntarily nodding down toward your chest. Then you tried your hardest to snap awake, because you're at work, dammit!
That's a pretty good metaphor for this morning's jobs numbers.
They're not bad -- 175,000 jobs were added, mostly in business and professional services and durable-goods wholesalers. Most of the rest of our nation's industries didn't do much one way or another, except for motion picture and sound recording, which even in the best of economies is not what you'd call "steady work." Given that many of those industries spent the last two months shedding jobs the way Lady Gaga goes through costumes, plodding boringly along was a cheering improvement. Especially considering the weather.
On the other hand, these numbers aren't good, either. Because the economy needs to add somewhere in the range of 100,000 jobs a month just to accommodate population growth, 175,000 still leaves us very far from the level needed to absorb America's vast reserve army of the unemployed. It's the sort of number you expect to see in the tail months of an expiring boom, not as we pull out of recession. Numbers like this give credence to any number of depressing theories about permanently depressed labor-force participation -- and the permanently lower gross domestic product that comes with it. Our economy, like us, seems to be getting sleepy.
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