We’re Gaining Momentum, Now it’s Time to Hit the Gas

by Seth Harris on May 6, 2013 · 0 comments

The April jobs report shows that the economy added 165,000 total nonfarm jobs in April, and the unemployment rate dipped to 7.5 percent − a four-year low. That means 6.8 million new jobs over 38 consecutive months of private-sector job growth following the Great Recession. The revisions to February and March showing additional employment gains of 114,000 jobs further indicate that – to this point – 2013 is experiencing a fuller, more accelerated jobs recovery than we have yet seen.

 

Monthly change in total private employment

Monthly Change in Total Private Employment, February 2008 - April 2013. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics Program.

The unemployment rate has declined by 0.4 percent since January. In April, the number of long-term unemployed (those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 258,000. Significant gains this month in professional and business services, health care and retail employment indicate that many of the jobs being added are providing good, middle-class opportunities.

The bottom line is that people are finding work: There are 1.65 million more people working today than 12 months ago.

But let us not mistake a report that exceeds our expectations with unequivocal economic success. The difference between a moderate jobs report and an excellent report is the sequester. These misguided, arbitrary budget cuts are putting the brakes on an economy that is gaining momentum in the private sector – just when we need to hit the gas.

 

Employment in Major Industries Since the Employment Trough, February 2010 - April 2013

Employment in Major Industries Since the Employment Trough, February 2010 - April 2013. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics Program.

Because of the sequester, we are not creating the abundance of new jobs that will put everyone who wants to work back on the job and end the cruel game of economic musical chairs that leaves so many hard-working people out of work when the music stops. We need a balanced approach that makes investments in job-creating activities while pursuing a long-term deficit reduction strategy.

President Obama has proposed several measures that will jump-start the economy and catalyze job growth. He continues to push for infrastructure investments that will breathe new life into the construction industry, in particular. In addition to physical infrastructure, we need to modernize our skills infrastructure. By providing training and investments in human capital, we will prepare people for good jobs and give them ladders of opportunity.

Seth Harris is the acting secretary of labor.

 

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