The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Jobs Report? What Jobs Report? Hey Look, Gay Marriage!

The jobs numbers are out for March, and they’re a doozy: only 88,000 new jobs were added, with unemployment inching down to 7.6 percent. That may not sound so bad until you look at the context. This figure is significantly down from the 268,000 jobs added in February, and is far more dire than the 200,000 jobs economists expected. Unemployment was down—barely—and was due to almost half a million people leaving the workforce.

The New York Times’ story puts the figures against a grim backdrop:

“It’s important to look at the types of jobs that are being created because those jobs will directly affect the fortunes and challenges of households and neighborhoods as well as the course of the recovery,” said Sarah Bloom Raskin, a member of the Federal Reserve Board, in a recent speech. [...]

Ms. Raskin also expressed concern about temporary-help jobs, which account for a growing share of total employment.

Usually an increase in temp hiring is considered a good thing, at least at the start of a recovery, since it indicates that employers are thinking about taking on permanent workers. So far, though, employers seem to be sticking with those temporary contracts.

“Temporary help is rapidly approaching a new record,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, who noted that there was also a rapid increase in temp hiring during the boom years of the ‘90s. “That of course means more flexibility for employers, and less job security for workers.”

Perhaps most distressingly, millions of workers who want full-time work still can find only part-time work, and their missing work hours do not count toward the official unemployment rate.

Some of these trends mentioned in the Times article look like they might be influenced by Obamacare: companies don’t want to add full time job slots when they incur health care liabilities. It appears that, despite all the comforting words from the administration that the “smart tax hikes” and brilliant Obamacare plans are creating the most fabulous business environment since the invention of fire, actual businessmen are still hesitant to invest actual money in the American economy.

We are, however, thrilled that we don’t have a Republican in the White House, because if we did, the press would be incessantly yammering about this bad news until we were all sick of it. As it is, they are likely to say as little as possible about what appears to be a massive failure of economic policy and go back to covering the really important issues, like gay marriage.

If a Republican president got very busy on social issues at a time of economic stagnation and disappointment, there would be earnest hand-wringing of the “What’s Wrong with Kansas” variety about how American rubes were being diverted from their true economic interests by the skillful manipulation of emotionally charged social issues and identity politics. This would be taken as a sign of the cynicism of the ruling party and the clueless credulity of the hypnotized voters.

Fortunately, we aren’t going to have to listen to any of that depressing rhetoric now. Social issues are good and important; economic questions like jobs and incomes and growth are a distraction from the real business of the people.

Published on April 5, 2013 9:20 am
  • Anthony

    Most important number: 63.3% labor force participation rate – lowest since 1979.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Lea/579129865 Luke Lea

    Unfortunately it is impossible to create a lot of new jobs unless real wages fall. It’s all about those eternal dad-gum laws of supply and demand which constrain us every bit as much as Newton’s law of universal gravitation. It takes real sophistry to think otherwise.

    Expect inflation to tick up, and the real hourly take home pay of the bottom eighty percent of the workforce — those classed as non-supervisory by the Dept. of Labor — to continue their forty year decline.

    When, oh when, dear Lord will we have the wisdom and the honesty to abandon our ruinous trade and immigration policies and enact new statutory limits on the length of the working day to offset all the new labor-saving technologies of the past fifty years?

    Til then the American way of life will continue to erode, taking the blue model and a lot of other things down with it. As Richard Feynman once said in connection to the Challenger disaster, “Nature cannot be fooled.”

    • Jim Luebke

      So if labor-saving devices are so destructive to employment, how do you explain the absorption of vast numbers of women who have entered the workforce over the last 50 years?

      France tried limiting hours. It didn’t work. Making more part-time work available to women who want to both work and raise a family might be helpful, although traditional marriage (of the husband-breadwinner type) would have to be reinforced instead of disparaged.

      There are other options, too. We can open up frontiers — in terms of new fields, in terms of new resources, or even in terms of new places (if we want to really think outside the box). That’s why our employment rate didn’t collapse in the 90′s; that’s why places like the Dakotas are booming now.

      We just can’t limit our horizons, is all.

  • http://triablogue.blogspot.com/ Matthew Schultz

    This is exactly the reason I can’t take the mainstream media seriously anymore. Why don’t they just come out and admit that if a Republican does it, it’s wrong, and if a Democrat does it, it’s right? That seems to be their operating principle.

    The economy is poor right now. As one of the millions looking for full-time work with only a part-time job, the press seems completely out of touch when it focuses on matters that don’t help me put food on the table and pay my bills.

  • qet

    Outstanding post. This is exactly what I think (well, not solely in relation to the jobs numbers) every time (which is every day) I read about how gay marriage is “the civil rights issue of our time.”

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    Luke, the real question that needs to be asked is …

    … when are our cultural, economic, and political leaders going to tell the rest of us the truth, that the idea of a “working class” where one is absolved of the responsibility to exercise their personal initiative to secure their own future – and instead are expected to rely upon said leaders to secure it for them while one just plods off to to work or school – is the driving force of wage stagnation and wealth inequality.

    Not immigration policy (as bad as that is) or free trade (which creates opportunities for one to exercise their initiative and better their lot) … but this idea that 300 million problem-solvers are dumber than our Cult of the Credentialed and Connected Omniscient, and therefore must be led out of “ignorance” by leaders whose track record indicates an affliction with severe myopia.

    That is the primary problem … we are short-circuiting the distributed intelligence of that 300 million, by expecting them to wait upon the experts to solve the problems.

    • ojfl

      Ritchie,

      I love the sentence “but this idea that 300 million problem-solvers are dumber than our Cult of the Credentialed and Connected Omniscient, and therefore must be led out of “ignorance” by leaders whose track record indicates an affliction with severe myopia”.

      In my short life experience it makes me cringe that some people actually still believe the Cult of the Credentialed and Connected Omniscient.

      • Fred

        My experience makes me cringe that anyone can call the collective drooling, mouth-breathing moron that is the American public “300 million problem-solvers.” The problem is not elitism per se but the elites we have.

        • ojfl

          Fred,

          everyone can solve problems. Not all to the same extent. But everyone can do it. Some can solve complex scientific problems. Some can solve some kitchen problems. Some can solve gardening problems. But everyone can solve problems, as long as they have use of their faculties.

        • Boritz

          Drooling mouth-breathing morons are cultivated. By the 1950s most people with even just a public education escaped this fate. Then came a great society that grows this varietal like weeds.

        • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

          No, the problem is that our elites don’t recognize Callahan’s Principle of Leadership … a man has got to know his limitations … and think they can actually perceive the problems of those 300 million with enough accuracy, breadth, and depth to solve those problems FOR them, and do a better job than those closest to the problems.

          They then absolve those 300 million of the responsibility to solve those problems … and THAT leaves some free to gravitate to “mouth-breathing moron” status, instead of remaining engaged in the problem-solving process. The elitism is enabling the dumbing-down you refer to.

          Keep in mind that any particular problem our elites deign to solve FOR us, is actually millions of problemS that vary greatly from individual to individual … and in many cases, do not require a rocket scientist to find a workable solution; but they do require the deliberate and responsible exercise of personal initiative, which elite intervention short-circuits.

          To believe that, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves” takes more blind faith in human omniscience, than I have in my God.

          But that is the basis of faith, in the Cult of the Credentialed Omniscient

        • PGlenn

          You;re both kind of right and kind of wrong.

          The American public tends to be very ignorant of politics and policy matters.

          At the same time, the technocratic elites fail miserably in trying to do the impossible – “fix” hyper-complicated socioeconomic problems via government social policy and attempts to micro-manage the economy via regulations and “progressive,” supposedly “market-oriented” (read: corporatist) incentives.

          I see the present generation of techno elites as comparatively mediocre, but no generation of elites were ever equipped to “fix” all of the problems that the ignorant, borderline superstitious voting public demands that they fix.

          I agree, though, that there is a 300 million person army of problem-solvers of a sort. If we free them to solve more of their own problems, the world will still be highly imperfect, but happier and more prosperous than under our failed “progressive” experiments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffery.roche Jeff Roche

    I knew that jobs report form the feds was going to be bad .. they were premptivly reporting from the AP that the jobs report would ‘probably’ be 200,000 jobs added .. been hearing them use probably a lot during reporting those kinds of numbers .. guess they figured people caught on to unexpectedly.

  • Bandit

    Focused like a laser on jobs

    • JamesPiekko1

      There would be jobs if there were more tax cuts.

  • ojfl

    It appears that, despite all the comforting words from the administration that the “smart tax hikes” and brilliant Obamacare plans are creating the most fabulous business environment since the invention of fire, actual businessmen are still hesitant to invest actual money in the American economy.

    This is the most important sentence of this article and potentially a significant indictment of the governing policy of the country right now.

  • exboyracer

    An if the teapuplicans didn’t do the crap about the debt ceiling which brought about the sequester what would happen.
    And don’t complain about social issues look around the country the republicans are doing everything they can to install the evangelical idiocy!
    The stupid party is so apt a name.

    • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

      As opposed to their opponents … who get EXCLUSIVE access to our public institutions to promote their faith (and yes, a lot of it IS faith) simply because the Establishment Clause is not applied to faiths who don’t name a supernatural Deity or Deities as the objects of their worship … and therefore are free to conflate their faith in “consensus” science, theory, and their own wishful thinking with conclusively-proven fact?

      And to add insult to injury, their faith is in specific members of a species that has a well-documented record of error, avarice, mendacity, and oppression … specific members who again and again reveal themselves to be poster children for Romans 1:22.

    • JamesPiekko1

      The MSM refuses to report that this God punishing us for electing a liberal to office. The Bible needs to be followed to the letter, so we need to end “equal rights” once and for all and we can return to prosperity free of socialistic wealth redistribution. It is just a shame they are taking our guns away so we cannot put an end to those who get in our way of forming a perfect Christian nation.

  • JamesPiekko1

    It is well past time *someone* reports on this.. You are a very brave and a very smart person for taking such a brave stance in this fight against the black out of the media about the jobs reports.

  • MS

    Reminds me of 2004 when the Republicans put gay marriage on ballots all over the country to distract from the war. It worked for them. Sucks to be on the other side, doesn’t it? The difference is, we are on the right side of history this time.

    • http://triablogue.blogspot.com/ Matthew Schultz

      I didn’t realize there was a “right” side of history. You’re not suggesting some sort of transcendent moral system to which we all need be accountable are you?

      • Tom

        Of course he is–the one we have right now, which says that everyone’s equal, and that if we keep on recognizing this, everything’ll be okay. Never mind the multiple debt crises going on in the world.

    • Attila

      The “Right Side of History” is where the people who brought us NAMBLA reside?
      You really are funny.