As you may recall, the April 2021 jobs report was a huge disappointment. Experts had expected about a million jobs, but the real number was a little over one-quarter of that.
That tempered everyone’s expectations for May . . . but not enough. Today we got a number of 559,000, versus predictions of about 100,000 more.
It’s not that no one’s hiring, as anyone who’s driven past businesses lately can attest. It’s also not a failure of companies to try to make attractive offers: Wages are growing at a healthy clip. Businesses want workers, are willing to pay for them, and indeed are working their existing employees longer hours to keep up. Yet job growth keeps coming in weaker than expected, and labor-force participation actually ticked down slightly in May. Job-wise, we’re significantly behind the projections the Congressional Budget Office issued before the last round of “stimulus.”
It sure sounds to me like that $300-per-week boost to unemployment benefits, which pays about 40 percent of workers more than they made while working, might be having some bad effects. About half the states are opting out of this boost — which otherwise won’t end until September — and we’ll know soon if their decision produces results.
Meanwhile, Congress should at least give another look to Senator Ben Sasse’s “signing bonus” idea. The Democrats will never yank the existing benefit boost, but they should at least balance it out with an incentive to get back to work.