But not fast enough. It’s huge news that the latest employment report (pdf) shows that the country has finally started to add jobs. It’s the first substantial increase in the number of jobs since 2007. But while the economy added 162,000 jobs in March, that’s still just a small fraction of the more than 8 million jobs we’ve lost since the start of the recession. And 48,000 of the jobs we added are temporary census jobs, which will disappear again when the census is over. It wasn’t enough to make a dent in the 9.7% unemployment rate anyway, since we needed to add nearly that many jobs just to keep up with the growth of the working age population. The economy certainly hasn’t recovered yet. The best we can say is, as Paul Krugman puts it, that “the patient is in stable condition.”
It’s certainly an improvement. For the first time in years almost every major industry seems to be hiring. But if the economy is finally beginning to improve for many people things are still getting worse. The unemployment rate for black men rose to a new high of 19%. The underemployment rate—the percent of people who have less work than they’d like—actually increased slightly to 16.9%. And the percent of the unemployed who have been looking for work longer than 6 months rose to a record 44.1% in March. It may be a while before people who have been out of work for a long time do get jobs, since the government predicts that unemployment will remain at this level through 2011 and may not return to pre-recession levels until 2016. Meanwhile, the average hourly wage of people who actually have jobs fell slightly.
There’s only so much the government can do to create jobs. But what little we are doing is, as Robert Reich says, nowhere near enough. A sustained recovery depends upon putting Americans back to work. This has already been one of the most painful recessions in American history. It’s time to do something to help those who are hurting.
CORRECTION: This post originally said that almost 80% of new jobs have gone to people over 55. That appears to be an artifact of the fact that the data for each age group is seasonally adjusted separately, so that the totals don’t add up. While many new jobs have gone to older people, it is nowhere near as dramatic as I originally wrote.