Thursday, February 4, 2010

January Job Losses Nearly Non-Existent. How Will The GOP Spin This One Negatively?!?

Unemployment is the final frontier of any economic recovery. Despite months of an improving stock market, manufacturing and housing starts, and other positive indicators, the unemployment rate is currently stalled at 10%. This has more or less been the albatross around the neck of the Obama Administration, even as job losses have continued to plummet from an astronomical 736k last March as Obama was just settling into office.

January's job loss numbers just dropped, and it's hard to deny the progress the economy has made since this time last year.
Private-sector firms in the U.S. eliminated 22,000 jobs in January, the 24th decline in a row, according to the ADP employment report released Wednesday.

It was the fewest jobs lost since 22,000 jobs were added in January 2008. Fewer jobs have been lost every month since a record 736,000 jobs were lost last March.

"Given the clear improving trend in ADP, it is surely just a matter of (not much) time" before payrolls turn positive, wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief domestic economist for High Frequency Economics.

"Growth of overall private employment is on the verge of turning positive," said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, the consultancy that developed and maintains the ADP employment report based on anonymous payroll data provided by ADP.

Jobs in the service sector increased by 38,000, while goods-producing industries cut 60,000, including 25,000 in manufacturing.

Large businesses cut 19,000 jobs, small businesses cut 12,000, and medium-sized businesses (between 50 and 500 workers) added 9,000, the first increase since January 2008.

In December, a revised 61,000 jobs were lost, compared with the 84,000 originally reported, ADP said.
Yes, I realize this is still not a net-gain in job numbers, and I'm also well versed enough in Econ 101 to know that until the net job number grows by a significant enough amount each month, the unemployment rate is unlikely to budge, let alone drop noticeably. This news is also likely of little consolation to anyone who's out of a job, and sitting home in their drawls watching Judge Mathis right now.

But let's look at the bright side: job losses have slowed to a trickle, and if recent trends are any indication, we should see net growth in February. You have to walk before you crawl. The fact that January's numbers were even better than December's shows this isn't related to holiday temporary hires as many have suspected. It is real, tangible progress, and sooner or later, as more employers begin hiring again, the unemployment numbers will indeed begin dropping. You have to crawl before you walk, and at least you can say we'll in the "cruising" stage right now.

I'm sure folks will not give Obama any credit for this, just as they wouldn't have given him credit if there was an actual net-gain this month. But reality is, although the Stimulus plan may have been a bit messy in execution, much of it is indeed producing fruit. Likewise, the auto bailouts were unpopular, but Ford (sales up 24% from last January) and GM (up 14%) are both moving units again. The bank bailouts are probably even more unpopular, but I give both Obama and Bush credit for doing what was necessary. Most of that money has been long since repaid with interest. So let's look on the bright side here.

Things, slowly, but surely, are getting better. Anyone saying otherwise is just plain anti-American.

Question: Is the economy really on the verge of a turnaround, or should we be leery of a double-dip recession? Will Obama's critics give him any credit for this turnaround?

Private sector sheds 22,000 jobs in Jan., ADP says [MarketWatch]

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