Top of the News: Last month, I wrote that jobs — and job retention by states and regions — would soon eclipse the housing market as the epicenter of concern in this recession. Today’s Labor Department report that non-farm payrolls fell 651,000 in the short month of February, pushing unemployment to 8.1 percent, was actually in line with the expectations of chastened analysts. It’s what’s behind the numbers that’s more unsettling.
The department revised its numbers of job losses for December and January to reflect much more severe declines — the worst in 60 years. The depth and breadth of the reductions show how global and cross-sector the downturn is being felt. Some 4.4 million net jobs have been lost since December 2007, and the numbers of long-term unemployed are also growing. And we’re not even counting the “underemployed” or those who have given up looking (that would pull the real employment rate up to 14.8 percent, vs. 13.9 percent in January).
Even before the revised numbers, Christopher Portman, a senior economist at Oxford Economics wrote on Knowledge@Wharton, “In terms of the global economy, 2009 will be the worst year since World War II and even since the 1930s.” With so many sick sectors, with so much bad debt, with a fundamental “reset” facing the economy — this downturn has the potential to be long, especially if time and treasure is spent trying to revive the unsustainable (zombie banks, call your office). All indicators point to deeper joblessness to come in Washington state, but we’re in better shape than most right now.
The Back Story: At the risk of crisis fatigue, I’ll call your attention to the musings of James Kwak, a software entrepreneur and writer on the econ blog Baseline Scenario. He rightly raises the undertold story of the danger facing retirees as asset prices have fallen, 401(k)s have been decimated, many pension funds are underfunded — and many older households don’t even have retirement accounts. Kwak writes, “Our retirement “system” has four main legs: Medicare, Social Security, corporate or government defined-benefit pensions, and private saving (IRAs, 401(k)s, etc.). Right now it looks like Medicare and Social Security are the stronger legs.”
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Just what Boeing needs
A Wichita tornado
As workers vote no