The US economy added 162,000 jobs in March. Great news until you look more closely. In March, the federal government began hiring census takers big time. These are six-month temp jobs, and they tell us nothing about underlying trends in the labor market. It’s hard to gauge precisely how many were hired — probably between 100,000 and 140,000, although some estimates put the hiring as low as 48,000. Almost a million census workers will need to be hired over the next few months. Subtract these, and today’s job numbers are good but nothing to write home about.
There are some positive signs. Manufacturing payrolls expanded a bit, heath care employers added 27,000 jobs, and about 40,000 private-sector temp jobs were added. But payrolls continue to be slashed in financial services and the information industry.
Two big things to bear in mind:
First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.
Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.
A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.
Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.
CORRECTION: In my March 30 posting, “Fraud on the Street,” I stated that a whistle-blower who’d alerted Ernst & Young to fraud had been fired by Ernst & Young. It’s actually worse than that. The whistle blower was from Lehman Brothers itself, and he was fired by Lehman when he tried to blow the whistle. Apologies to Ernst & Young. Even bigger condemnation of Lehman.