January 18, 2020

Is the Jobs Report Really a "Blockbuster?"

“Friday’s jobs report must have been adapted from a comic book — because everyone’s calling it a “blockbuster” (and Martin Scorsese hasn’t shown any interest in it).

In November, America’s unemployment rate hit a half-century low, as U.S. employers added 266,000 positions to their payrolls, nearly 100,000 more than economists had anticipated. Revised estimates of the preceding two months revealed that September and October had witnessed the creation of 41,000 more jobs than previously understood. Meanwhile, the underemployment rate — the percentage of workers who are either involuntarily stuck in part-time gigs, or want jobs but aren’t actively looking for them — also ticked down below 7 percent for the first time in nearly two decades.

This is all very good news. Tight labor markets are no panacea for all that ails America’s working class. But they’re no mere palliative, either. A true “full employment” economy can advance many goals that liberals have struggled to promote through legislation. It is fiscally, politically, and logistically difficult to force employers to accommodate disabled workers or offer training to the under-skilled through policy in the United States (getting pro-labor laws through the Senate is Herculean; comprehensively enforcing them is Sisyphean). But engineer labor-market conditions that make hiring managers into beggars instead of choosers, and they’ll start creating opportunities for our nation’s most disadvantaged proletarians.”

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