Friday’s unemployment report, with 243,000 jobs added in January, shows the economy healing slowly. With growth in gross domestic product more than 2 percent in the last part of 2011, the huge demand hole of the Great Recession is slowly being filled. If this continues for another three or four months, it might indicate a self-sustaining trend of recovery.
The downsides: The percentage of the working-age population that has jobs is only 58.5 percent. That’s better than the 58.2 percent six months ago but strikingly low vs. the 63.3 percent before the recession. The broadest measure of unemployment is still an unacceptable 15.1 percent. Local government woes continue to drag on the economy. Pimco’s Mohamed A. El-Erian argues that long-term unemployment and joblessness among the young continue to be severe, and under-appreciated, problems.
Most importantly, at this rate of job creation it will take until at least 2019 to regain anything near full employment. Considering how recessions hit every seven to nine years, we might face another economic shock that further sets back job creation. Even without that, hasty “austerity” to fight a perceived deficit crisis will be damaging (ask the U.K.).
As for the political considerations, President Obama obviously benefits if the economy continues to heal. But no recent president other than Ronald Reagan has won re-election with the unemployment rate so high. In Reagan’s case, the economy was swiftly mending from the severe early-1980s recession(s). That’s unlikely to repeat now.
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Today’s Econ Haiku:
A Morgan banker
Named for FDIC board
Hen house, meet the wolf