We’ve lived through this over and over during the Obama presidency. Every time we see a hopeful sign that the economy’s shifting into a higher gear (a bullish 3.9% GDP growth in the second quarter, for example, after a near-recessionary 0.6% in the first), hiring slips back again into its slow-growth ditch.
No wonder voters are seething with anger.
Jobs rose by just 142,000 in September. But even that paltry gain was offset by 59,000 fewer jobs than originally reported for July and August. We need about 150,000 jobs just to keep up with natural population growth and new young entrants into the workforce.
Worse yet — and stop us if you’ve heard this before — another 350,000 Americans of working age disappeared from the labor force, bringing the total over age 16 not working to a record 94.6 million.
The biggest decline in the workforce has not been among the elderly, but the young, who just aren’t jumping into starter jobs at the normal rate. The participation rate in the labor market somehow dropped again to 62.4% — lowest since 1978. If labor force participation had stayed where it was when President Obama entered office, we’d have about 5 million more workers today.
But even that number understates the decline in work and productivity. The workweek shrank again — to 34.5 hours — largely due to the rise of part-time hiring. Thank you, ObamaCare.
Can we finally repeal the law requiring employers to provide health benefits to workers once they log 30 hours of work in a week? Workers can’t pay their bills and feed their families with 28-hour paychecks.
Wages, which made decent gains over the previous several months, actually ticked down in September. So we are working less, for less.
This is no accident; it’s policy-induced slow growth.
It’s fitting that we get a disappointing jobs report in the very week that the administration says it will move forward with a new ozone containment rule that the National Association of Manufacturers says will be one of the biggest job-killing regulations in American history.
Obama still won’t allow the Keystone Pipeline, or the exporting of oil, which would be a major job producer. He won’t cut the corporate tax, or roll back ObamaCare rules hindering employment. His grandiose plans to save the planet come before putting Americans to work.
Meanwhile, the betting is that the slowdown makes it less likely the Fed will get off its zero interest-rate policy later this year, on the philosophy that if you have a policy that isn’t working, stick with it. The Fed has underestimated growth for the last five years.
At least in “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray finally makes the right moves and gets on with his life.
In Washington’s version of the movie, we’re still making almost all the wrong moves, so Americans are stuck in a 10-year cycle of slow growth, stagnating incomes and falling worker participation.
Maybe it’s time to change the economic script.