April 9, 2012

After Friday Optimism, AP’s Wiseman Provides Five Reasons Future Job Growth May Not Be So Great After All

On Friday (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the Associated Press’s headline at Paul Wiseman’s dispatch after the release of the government’s March jobs report was: “US job market takes a break after hiring binge.” It was as if they just knew that March was an aberration, and that the “binging” would resume in April.

The markets weren’t as convinced today: “Investors had a three-day weekend to brood over disappointing job growth in March. When they got back to work Monday and delivered their verdict, it wasn’t good.” Wiseman and AP regrouped today, identifying “5 reasons the US job market might be weakening”:

Economists mostly shrugged off news that U.S. hiring slowed in March as a one-month aberration warped by warm weather.

But what if they’re wrong? What if the sharp drop in job creation signaled something more ominous?

Investors appeared worried Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 131 points on the first day of trading since the government said Friday that employers added just 120,000 jobs in March. That was only half the pace of hiring the economy enjoyed in December through February and well below the 210,000 economists had expected.

Economists were quick to explain away the March numbers.

Unseasonably warm weather in January and February, they said, had led construction companies and other employers to hire workers earlier in the year than usual – in effect, swiping jobs that would have occurred in March.

The only trouble with that theory is that changes in actual construction employment (i.e., the not seasonally adjusted figures were trailed their year-ago counterpart in both February and March (so I guess the “stealing” occurred in December and January?). Construction showed seasonally adjusted job losses in both February (-6,000) and March (-7,000), so it’s more than a little difficult to understand how the “good weather” excuse works as a credible explanation.

Here are the five reasons Wiseman identified as to why job growth may continue to not impress:

SLUGGISH ECONOMIC GROWTH … The economy is expected grow around 2.5 percent this year. Economists say that’s consistent with monthly job growth of around 140,000. …

HIGHER GASOLINE PRICES … retailers cut more than 62,000 jobs in February and March. That suggested that gasoline price hikes might have started to pinch consumers’ budgets – and their willingness to shop …

SHRINKING INCOMES — Companies cut workers’ hours in March, reducing their average weekly earnings. Pay isn’t keeping up with inflation either. In February, inflation-adjusted earnings were 1 percent lower than a year earlier. That means less money to spend without borrowing or dipping into savings. …

JOB-MARKET DROPOUTS … Many economists say millions of Americans have given up looking for work …

A LOT OF CATCHING UP TO DO — The solid job gains of December to February disguised a painful fact: The economy still has a long way to go recover all the jobs lost in the Great Recession and its aftermath.

Geez, why weren’t we seeing or hearing any of this on Friday when people were paying attention to the just-released report? Well, it was probably because they were then, but, relatively speaking, they aren’t now.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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