Dismal jobs production in March – only 88,000 net jobs created, not sufficient even to cover people coming into the workforce – is a wake-up call to Washington.
The weak recovery is now floundering in face of harsh headwinds – the payroll tax hike, the beginnings of the sequester cuts, continued wage stagnation, deepening recession in Europe. The extraordinary measures taken by the Federal Reserve to prop up the economy are undermined by Washington’s perverse turn to austerity. The record rate of deficit reduction – greater than any since demobilization after World War II – threatens to add to mass unemployment.
The March Bureau of Labor Statistics report portrays an economy in which jobs growth is stalled. "Little changed" are the watchwords of the report, applied to the unemployment rate, the number of unemployed, unemployment rates for whites, blacks, men, women, Asians, Hispanics, teenagers, discouraged workers. "Little changed" is employment in major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, state government, and local government. Ominously, long-term unemployment – still near 40 percent – is also "little changed."
With over 20 million people still in need of full-time work, we cannot afford many months of "little changed." It is time for the administration and the Congress to turn from the ruinous fixation on deficit reduction and move to put Americans back to work. We know what to do – rebuild our decrepit infrastructure, put teachers back to work, create green and urban corps to retrofit public buildings and apartments providing both energy savings and jobs for the young. The Federal Reserve cannot lift the economy alone. It is time for Washington to move.