It is amazing, given that we’ve been fighting a three-alarm unemployment fire with water buckets the past few months, that there is any positive news at all in the unemployment front. But there was a surprising net increase in 244,000 new jobs in April—a sliver of good news to cling to.
But the context is sobering. The unemployment rate went up to 9.0 percent from 8.8 percent, and 13.7 million people are out of work, 205,000 more than in March. At the same time the private sector created 268,000 jobs, we laid off 24,000 public sector workers. A good number of the private sector jobs was the result a 62,000-person April hiring blitz at McDonald’s. The number of people taking part-time work even though they want full-time jobs went up by 167,000.
For the person looking for the kind of secure job that would enable them to live a middle-class life, the recession is still on. And conservatives in Congress and in the states are still doing all of the wrong things in the face of this jobs recession. They are blithe about throwing public sector workers onto the unemployment lines; don’t forget House Speaker John Boehner’s “so be it” dismissal of the jobs that would be lost as a result of federal budget cuts his party has pushed. (The latest consequence: In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg today is proposing to lay off 4,278 teachers, citing federal budget cuts as one of the reasons.) And when a program to bring our transportation networks, water infrastructure and energy grid back to world-class standards would accelerate private-sector job growth, our misguided budget debate is taking us in the opposite direction.
The truth is that if we kept this same pace of job production for the next 27 months, we’d end up with just the same number of jobs that were in the economy in April 2008, when employment was just about to fall into the precipice, and that does not take into account new entrants into the workforce and the discouraged workers who want back in. Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute says today that at April’s job growth rate, it would take until the fall of 2016 to get back to the pre-recession unemployment rate. We need a much more rapidly growing economy.
But the hard-right wing in Congress has put economic policy in a strait jacket. Their policy prescriptions—more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, more deregulation and fewer protections against corporate recklessness, and trade deals that are winners for corporations and losers for American workers—have not worked in the past and won’t work in the future. Outside the Beltway, majorities of ordinary people who are looking for work or are struggling to pay their bills with too-lean paychecks know what must be done: immediate action to jump-start the economy, putting people back to work on the jobs that will set the stage for lasting recovery.
It is time, as our co-director Robert Borosage says in a statement today, “that working Americans use our strength in numbers to reclaim the American dream.”
Updated 10:49 a.m.