We're short 7.8 million jobs! Why all the economic happy talk?

The New York Times' Bob Herbert says the media’s newfound economic optimism is baseless. First, the media’s fixated on the wrong statistics:

Joblessness is like a cancer in the society. The last thing in the world that you want is for it to metastasize. And that’s what’s happening now. Don’t tell me about the stock market. Don’t tell me about the banks and their perpetual flimflammery. Tell me whether poor and middle-income families can find work. If they can’t, the country’s in trouble.

And, second, the labor market reality is even more dire than headline statistics and happy talk about a reduction in the rate at which jobs are disappearing suggest:

It’s a measure of just how terrible the economy has become that a loss of more than a half-million jobs in just one month can be widely seen as a good sign. The house is still burning down, but not quite as fast…

One reason the employment losses slowed somewhat in April was that the government added 72,000 jobs, most of them temporary hires as part of the preparation for the 2010 Census. The private sector dumped 611,000 jobs. Moreover, the Labor Department revised the job losses for March upward, from 663,000 to 699,000, and for February, from 651,000 to 681,000. Some 5.7 million jobs have been lost since the start of the recession in December 2007…

7.8 million jobs would have to be created just to bring us back to where we were when the recession began. That’s because the working-age population has continued to grow since then. The economy has to create about 127,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. That comes to more than 2 million jobs since the start of the recession, which you then add to the 5.7 million that have been lost.

Posted by James on Saturday, May 09, 2009