March 10 2014
Lackluster February Jobs’ Growth: Too Many Remain Out in the Cold
Patrice J. Lee
Temperatures are finally warming up and so are job numbers. Friday’s monthly jobs report indicates that the economy may be strengthening with a slightly better than predicted job growth. However, that’s little solace to the millions of American workers who remain unemployed or are discouraged from searching for jobs–especially women.
The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent as 175,000 jobs were added last month beating the forecast of 150,00 from experts.
Why did the unemployment rate rise despite more jobs being created? Discouraged workers returned to the job search, which is a good sign that American workers are increasingly feeling as though their prospects for finding a job are improving. But that doesn’t mean they’re able to find jobs and that’s a serious problem.
Where are the gains? The private sector. CNN Money reports:
Economists had been expecting a weaker jobs number due to colder than usual weather throughout much of the country in February. Ice and snow can postpone hiring if businesses close, or even cause a decline in outdoor jobs, like construction.
That didn't happen though. Instead, hiring picked up across many sectors. Construction added 15,000 jobs, restaurants and bars added 20,100 jobs and education and health services added 33,000 jobs.
Offices are hiring: By far, the strongest hiring came from professional and business services industries, which include accountants, architects and technology workers. This sector alone added 79,000 jobs last month.
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez called hiring in this sector "easily the strongest aspect of the jobs report."
"These are well-paying jobs," he said. "It's a bellwether of the bullishness of business to expand."
It feels good to report positive economic news. Let’s hope that the February employment numbers are a bellweather for an improving job market for Americans. These gains are reclaiming ground lost during the recession, but we have quite a way to go. 8.7 million jobs were lost following the financial crisis, but we’re still nearly a million jobs short of recovering them. Economists estimate that it will take years to return to pre-recession unemployment levels of between 4 percent and 5 percent when you factor population growth.
And millions of American workers are still left out in the cold. Long-term unemployment remains unacceptably high with 3.8 million workers unemployed for at least six months.
Generation Opportunity (GenOpp) released its Millennial monthly jobs report for young people aged 18-29 and finds that the stubborn double-digit effective unemployment still won’t move from almost 16 percent. For young women, the unemployment rate is nearly ten percent and 19 percent for African American young people. (In full disclosure: I work for GenOpp).
Despite the bad news, at least more Americans can finally secure (well-paying) positions. It’s an early indicator that the economy is improving despite pressures from government policies that hinder instead of promote job creation and growth. Why haven’t our nation’s leaders been laser-focused on economic growth and job creation? They’ve been too busy trying to convince young people to sign up for ObamaCare and inciting fear about minimum wages as a means of strengthening their electoral bases before the 2014 midterms.
The Congressional Budget Office made clear that the combination of raising the minimum wage and ObamaCare will lead to millions of job losses leaving Americans out of work. A recent study indicates that small businesses have halted hiring and will not grow because of ObamaCare. Yet, the Administration and its friends in Congress continue to press for such anti-growth policies. If they spent more of their time finding solutions that work rather than denying the facts, more Americans would be back to work this morning.