Today’s unemployment report from the Labor Department is disappointing to millions of Americans who are looking for jobs. It shows that the U.S. economy created only 113,000 jobs – well below most economists’ expectations. Many experts had hoped that this report for January would erase the gloom created by the December jobs report, which reported only 74,000 new jobs.
While bad weather may be blamed, these weak numbers show that the economy and job creation continue to be crippled by the impact of conservative austerity policies. Federal and state spending have been cut over a series of ‘deficit reduction’ and sequestration agreements forced on the country by right-wing legislators who care more about their rigid ideology than about healthy investment and growth.
Today’s report shows the unemployment rate, now at 6.6 percent, has barely budged. And the number of long-term unemployed – people who have been unable to find work over 27 weeks – remains at historically high levels at 3.6 million. Republican senators who just Thursday cravenly blocked a vote to extend long-term unemployment benefits must come back to the table and pass legislation that will help these people and stimulate the economy.
In poll after poll, Americans place the need for more jobs as their number one priority. But it is now clear – from recent reports from the Congressional Budget Office and other experts – that conservative government policy is killing jobs and growth. Unless new policies are instituted to spur more robust job creation, the U.S. economy will take a very long time to get back to good employment levels.
Reports from the Hamilton Project and the Economic Policy Institute have shown that even if the economy adds an average of 208,000 jobs per month, it will take until September 2018 to close the jobs gap, defined as the number of jobs needed to return to pre-recession employment levels while also absorbing the people who enter the labor force each month.
The lesson from this disappointing jobs numbers: Congress should stop imposing job-killing austerity and take steps to invest in job creation. The Senate should pass an extension of unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed, and the House should quickly pass it and send it to the president.