The Corner

A Mediocre Jobs Report

Despite a welcome drop in the unemployment rate to 9.5 percent, today’s report on the labor market was mediocre, supporting neither the case for a double-dip recession nor the case for a robust recovery. Including positive revisions to prior months, total payrolls came in better than consensus expectations and private payrolls were in line with expectations.

However, total hours worked in the private sector declined 0.2 percent after last month’s increase of 0.3 percent. A 0.2 percent drop in total hours in June is like losing 235,000 jobs in the private sector. Given recent volatility, the best thing to do is average the past two months, which shows enough demand for labor by private companies to boost payrolls by 60,000 per month (assuming firms keep hours per worker unchanged).

Not coincidentally, private payrolls are up 58,000 per month in the past two months. So far this year, private payrolls are up 100,000 per month while civilian employment — minus the government sector — is up 210,000 per month. Meanwhile, productivity growth remains very strong. As a result, the economy can grow at close to a 4 percent annual rate for 2010 despite a subdued willingness to hire that likely has roots in the expansion of the size of government and the looming new health-care entitlement that starts in 2013. 

In other recent news, cars and light trucks (SUVs and pick-ups) were sold at an 11.1 million annual rate in June versus a consensus expected 11.4 million rate and 11.6 million rate in May. Still, auto sales were up 14 percent versus June 2009.

— Bob Stein is senior economist with First Trust Advisers.

Most Popular


For the First Time in Weeks, Relief Sweeps over Austin

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Austin bomber is done in by one of his own devices; some new numbers suggest that a small but significant portion of Trump voters are tiring of the chaos and aren’t showing up to support other Republicans in 2018; and the mixed news for conservatives coming out of the ... Read More

The Baleful Effect of #MeToo on Campus

Remember the series of hurricanes that pounded the Caribbean last summer? Something like that has been occurring on college campuses, as they're hit by one destructive mania after another: diversity, Title IX, anti-speech protests. Now it's the #MeToo Movement. In this Martin Center article, British academic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

March Mailbag

1. In response to this post, about the Fed and fiscal stimulus: “So are you saying that deficit spending is a free lunch because the Fed will keep inflation from happening? You say [extra government spending] won’t ‘raise economic output’ but what’s the harm of it if you’re right?” I see at least ... Read More


For your amusement, I hope, I’ve done a Jaywalking episode. It begins with a bit of the overture to Semiramide -- a Rossini opera I reviewed from the Met last week. Then I get into Russia and, after a while, China. The Marriott company fired an employee for “liking” a tweet by a Tibetan independence group. ... Read More