Weak Job Growth: Three Makes a Trend

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
July 6 2012 8:45 AM

Three Weak Jobs Reports Make a Trend

The newest Bureau of Labor Statistics report was released today. With revisions we have 80,000 jobs in June, 77,000 jobs in May, and 68,000 in April. Three makes a trend is the rule of journalism, so that is definitely a new weak trajectory for job growth. You'd need about 200,000 new jobs a month to be making meaningful progress toward reducing the unemployment rate. The good news, such as it is, is that the trajectory is upward. That's visible in the headline jobs numbers and in the fact that both wages and hours worked went up in the June report.

But I think it's clear that we're settling on a no-recovery path.

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As I wrote after the May jobs report, I think the Federal Reserve's statements so far in 2012 have made it clear that they don't want a jobs boom. They want positive GDP growth. They want higher payroll employment rather than lower. They want the unemployment rate steady or falling. But the economy's settled into a high-unemployment, low-resource equilibrium trajectory, and to get out of it, the central bank would need to tolerate some price spikes in specific sectors. But the Fed has indicated that they won't do that and that they're committed to keeping inflation below 2 percent. That essentially guarantees very tepid growth. Within the context of tepid growth, you could have a relatively strong month or a relatively weak one, but you can't have a boom. And you'd need a boom to make a serious dent in joblessness.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.