Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Is the US job market back, finally? One interesting data point in the March employment report: the US economy added 192,000 private-sector jobs last month, pushing private payrolls to 116.09 million. That level surpasses the former high of 115.98 million reached in January 2008.
Hardly an insignificant milestone, and one that shows how far the labor market recovery has come. Although the American economy has been growing since summer 2009, a return to prerecession private-job totals is also an important marker. Perhaps, one could say, we’ve even returned to normal.
If so, it’s a dreary new normal. Consider this: private-sector jobs typically grow by about 3% a year during strong recoveries and expansions, such as the ones in the 1980s and the 1990s. From 2010 through 2013, however, they grew only by 2.1% a year. If the current recovery and expansion had been as robust as the ones during the Reagan and Clinton years, we would have around 121 million private-sector jobs right now. So we’re still a good five million private-sector jobs short of where we might be — a pretty significant “jobs gap” — by that rough calculation.
What’s more, we are nearly four million full-time jobs — both public and private — short of prerecession levels, not even assuming a stronger recovery. Just 81% active US workers have a full-time job versus 83% in November 2007. And, don’t forget, another 4 million Americans are long-term unemployed.
Another way to look at it: monthly payroll growth has averaged 178,000 this year vs. 185,000 in the 2011-2103 period. At that pace, it would take nearly six years to return to prerecession employment levels, according to the Hamilton Project’s jobs gap calculator. Overall, then, few signs of economic acceleration, though plenty of Wall Street economists think both GDP and jobs growth will pick up in coming months. We can only hope. But for now there is no reason for Washington policymakers to consider America’s economic emergency anywhere near over, even if the Great Recession technically is.Published in