Fewer jobs lost and lower unemployment than anyone had expected in the monthly report for November issued today had the New York Times story beginning: "The nation’s employers not only have stopped eliminating large numbers of jobs, but appear to be on the verge of rebuilding the American work force, devastated by the recession."
President Obama was more measured, telling an audience in Allentown, PA that there are going to be ups and downs before the economy settles. Most economists agree, but according to the Times "Many forecasters suggest that the turning point — from jobs being cut to jobs being added — will come by March, assuming the economy continues to grow, as it finally started to do in the third quarter. If they are right, the beginning of a work force recovery would come more quickly than after the last two recessions, in the early 1990s and 2001, despite the much greater severity of this downturn."
The uptick suggests that the much maligned Recovery Act is helping, which is what the Congressional Budget Office affirmed in a mostly ignored report earlier in the week. Another usefully obscure report named a different benefit related to the act--yet another quiet limitation on the influence of lobbyists ("Pursuant to the President's memoranda, restrictions have been placed on certain kinds of oral and written interactions between federally registered lobbyists and executive branch officials responsible for Recovery Act fund disbursement. ")
Early next week, President Obama will announce further plans to encourage employment. Statements this week have been quoted to emphasize the private sector's responsibility in creating jobs, which can be interpreted in different ways. There's certainly frustration that the bailed-out banking sector is not loaning enough for investment, while continuing pressure on home foreclosures. But all the right wing rhetoric and anticipated problems with the deficit aside, the private sector isn't primarily interested in employing people but in making profit. If that means overworking and exploiting fewer people that's great, especially if they're too frightened by the spectre of unemployment to complain. Thanks in part to the electronic workforce--the Internet and cell phone alliance--I seriously doubt this country will ever again see just 5% unemployment, the usual measure these days of "full" employment.
That's one reason FDR was right, in words from his second Inaugural that Jed Lewison at Kos quoted this week, and which are worth quoting again here:
" Instinctively we recognized a deeper need—the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men. "
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