Another weak jobs report

Now that the election is over, most of us don’t wait quite as breathlessly for the monthly job reports; nor is the media’s urge to spin them quite as strong. But the reports remain consequential and the temptation to spin remains strong.

Today’s report shows that employers added 155,000 jobs in December 2012. The unemployment rate for December was 7.8 percent, unchanged from November (the November rate originally was 7.7 percent, but was revised to 7.8). Also unchanged (at 14.4 percent) is a broader measure of unemployment that includes those working part time who want a full-time job and those who have given up looking for work out of frustration.

The Washington Post characterized the addition of 155,000 jobs as “steady gains.” That’s fair in the sense that the number represent a gain in jobs that is nearly identical to overall 2012 pace of 153,000 per month. However, that pace is meager compared to the levels of job creation associated with past recoveries.

It is also meagre compared to the level of job creation needed to bring down, or even maintain, the high unemployment rate. As the Post acknowledged, the number of people who entered the labor force exceeded the number of people who found jobs. If that pattern were to continue, it would eventually push the jobless rate up.

The White House, of course, attempted shamelessly to spin the latest report. Broken-record Alan Krueger, the chief White House economist, said the report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy “is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression.” Actually, the downturn of 2008 is comparable to, though arguably a bit worse than, that experienced in the early 1980s, and not at all comparable to the Great Depression.

As always, James Pethokoukis provides insight into the latest report, which he calls “dismal.”