Saturday, January 08, 2005

So, do you want the good news first or the bad news first?

OK, first the good news:

Jobs Picture Shows Some Signs of Life

...The Labor Department reported on Friday that the nation added 157,000 jobs in December and about 2.2 million jobs for all of last year - a good annual gain and the best since 1999.

Now, from the same article, the bad news:

But it was not quite enough, at least until further revisions are available, to make up for all the jobs lost earlier in President Bush's first term in office....

"It's a wet firecracker," said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research, a forecasting firm in New York. "This is positive job creation, but it pales in comparison with what we have had in previous economic recoveries."

Manufacturing companies, which shed more than two million jobs from 2000 to the end of 2003, added back only 96,000 jobs in 2004 - the weakest rebound in factory employment of any economic recovery on record in the United States.

...the report also provided many hints that employers were still trying to squeeze their labor costs as much as possible. [Mark] Zandi [of] said the sluggish rise in wages for a second consecutive month suggested that workers had little bargaining power with employers and that demand for labor was lackluster.

"That's good news for business - it means that profits should be strong - but not for the average American," he said. Hourly wages were almost flat again, climbing just 0.1 percent in December and 2.7 percent for the year. Weekly wages climbed slightly faster, because workers put in more hours on average, but both measures of pay lagged behind last year's inflation rate of 3.5 percent....

And from another article, there's this:

...Even as overall unemployment dropped last year, the share of unemployed workers who have been jobless for more than six months - the point at which most state benefits run out - has remained historically high. As of November, about 1.8 million, or one in five, unemployed workers were jobless for more than six months, compared with 1.1 million when the recession officially ended in November 2001.

Since the start of the recession in March 2001, the average length of unemployment has risen to 20 weeks from 13.

"Usually at this point in a recovery, job creation is skyrocketing, but so far that hasn't happened," said Kevin A. Hassett, economic director at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, a conservative organization. "It's not a partisan issue, it's a fact. The labor market is worse than in the typical recovery." ...

Boom boom boom!

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