Good News In the “Bad” Jobs Report

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There was wailing and gnashing of teeth on Friday when the monthly jobs report came out from the Department of Labor. Total jobs in the nation declined by 140,000 between November and December, the first drop since recovery began in May. Advocates for higher stimulus payments will, undoubtedly, use the December jobs report as ammunition.

But the report just spells out the obvious: people lose jobs when the government shuts down their employers. Nearly all of the job loss occurred in activities that were curtailed by government order in November and December.

That does not tell us anything about underlying economic health. Turns out that in those sectors not shut down, employment increased quite nicely.

Figure 1 shows the November-December change in jobs, by major sector, based on the Labor Department’s survey of employers.

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Michael Luis is a public policy consultant who has been wrestling with housing, growth and economic development issues around Washington State for over 30 years. He is author of several books on local history and served as mayor of Medina.

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