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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

November 5, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Better jobs numbers, but who can wait 20 years to get back ’07 levels?

Too late for President Obama and the Democrats, the economy saw some relative improvement in private-sector job creation last month. Partisans will take what they wish: That employers anticipated the socialist wave rolled back, or the reactionary “capital strike” has been eased to give the electorate a false sense of security.

In reality, the pace is slow, barely better than the jobs needed to handle the natural growth of the labor force. At this pace, as economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute points out, it would take 20 years to reach pre-recession employment rates. The larger numbers, including underemployed, discouraged workers and long-term unemployed, remain high. State and local layoffs eased a bit.

Interesting data and commentary from the week:

  • I checked in recently with Steve Gordon of Gordon Trucking, one of those companies critically positioned in the bloodstream of the economy. It had completed a small acquisition and is buying 1,300 trucks over the next three years. “Our volumes have been better than last year, and the entire trucking economy has largely rebounded, which is a good indicator generally,” he said. But business seemed to peak in the second quarter. He said customers have “been sitting on their hands” waiting for the election and its consequences for taxes and regulations. The economy? “Only bumping along.”
  • On Tuesday, the Greater Seattle Chamber will report on its survey of 1,200 local businesses to get a sense of the business climate here. Should be interesting.

  • The Economic Policy Institute put together an arresting graphic to show income inequality in America. “These latest patterns of extremely uneven income growth stand in stark contrast to the period between 1947 and 1973, when income growth was distributed roughly equally across income classes.”
  • Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz offers a scorching commentary on the damage being done to the rule of law by the documentation debacle and widespread fraud emerging in the foreclosure crisis:
  • To some, all of this is reminiscent of what happened in Russia, where the rule of law — bankruptcy legislation in particular — was used as a legal mechanism to replace one group of owners with another. Courts were bought, documents forged, and the process went smoothly.

    In America, the venality is at a higher level. It is not particular judges that are bought, but the laws themselves, through campaign contributions and lobbying, in what has come to be called “corruption, American-style.”

  • Oil shot above $86-a-barrel today. Is it an inflationary warning — ooops, for the Fed? A sign of a decoupled Asia’s demand rising? Or the hot money being speculated thanks to the Fed’s QE2? T. Boone Pickens predicts a one-in-four chance of $100-a-barrel in 2011.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Obama’s going

To India: “focus…jobs”

Outsource the West Wing?

Comments | More in Energy, Income/living standards, Jobs/Unemployment

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