What they’re saying about today’s job numbers

Democrats are pleased by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ announcement this morning that 11,000 jobs were lost in November – in the prior 3 months, payroll job losses had averaged 135,000 a month – and the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent (down from 10.2 percent in October), the best monthly jobs report since December 2007.

From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:

“Today’s news that our nation’s unemployment rate fell in November is a sign that the Obama administration and Democratic Congress’ efforts are helping to move our economy in the right direction. When President Obama first inherited this crisis, our economy was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs each month. Today’s figures reflect what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and a growing number of economists have told us: that the Recovery Act is helping blunt layoffs and reduce the unemployment rate.

“This hopeful report is also a reminder that our work is far from over. Each job lost is one too many. We must not let up on our efforts to stem further job losses and get our economy working for every American. While the nation’s employment situation may be stabilizing, millions of Americans are still without a job. In the coming weeks, Congress will move to provide additional relief to those who are struggling to pay their bills while they look for a job.”

Not good enough, say Republicans. From Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the ranking Republican on Miller’s committee:

“Any reduction in unemployment is welcome news, but a 10 percent unemployment rate is certainly not cause for celebration. Millions of Americans still cannot find jobs, and millions more remain so discouraged they’ve stopped seeking employment entirely.

“More than nine months since enactment of the stimulus, the unemployment rate remains two full percentage points higher than Democrats predicted. To consider this an economic recovery is an affront to the workers who remain jobless and the small businesses too uncertain to grow and hire because of the litany of economic threats looming in Washington.

“To achieve true economic recovery, America needs pro-growth policies. Instead, Democrats in Congress and the White House remain stubbornly committed to a job-killing agenda that includes card check, cap-and-tax, a government takeover of health care, and deficits as far as the eye can see. Summits and spending are not solutions.”

Robert Hall – a Stanford economics professor, Hoover Institution senior fellow, member of the Congressional Budget Office Advisory Committee since 1993 and president-elect of the American Economic Association – told me this morning that the job numbers “were a pleasant surprise and give some hope that we have reached bottom in payroll employment, but it would be going way to far to suggest that we can revise upward the fairly dismal forecasts for job growth in the next couple of years. Anyway, I don’t forecast, as it would conflict with my business cycle chronology function at the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research).”

But as for what expectations should’ve been up until now, he said, “All forecasters got the job situation wrong for this year. It’s preposterous to try to measure the effects of the stimulus by comparing actual to a year-ago forecast. All reasonable models say that the job situation would have been worse absent the stimulus, though there is a lot of disagreement on the amount.”


The Recovery Act’s six-month birthday

I’m getting e-mails today from leading House Republicans who claim the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law six months ago today, is a failure because it didn’t cause the nation’s enormous, complex economy to turn on a dime and instantaenously fix all that ails America. For example, from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“By any objective standard, the Democrats’ trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ isn’t working. The Administration promised the ‘stimulus’ would provide a ‘jolt’ to our economy and create jobs immediately, but 2.8 million more Americans have lost their jobs since the ‘stimulus’ became law. The American people are asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ The Administration’s insistence on spending, taxing, and borrowing more than ever is not the answer they’re seeking. Instead, it is burying our children and grandchildren under an unmanageable mountain of debt. Families and small businesses expect and deserve far better. Rather than pursuing more job-killing policies like a government takeover of health care and a national energy tax, Democrats should work with Republicans on better solutions that create jobs, curb spending, and control the debt.”

Or from Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the House Education and Labor Committee’s ranking Republican:

“Democrats in Washington rushed enactment of the so-called economic stimulus package with promises that it would stem the tide of unemployment and provide a jolt to our struggling economy. Half a year later, an additional 2.8 million Americans have lost their jobs, and the only thing that seems to have been stimulated is massive government bureaucracy.”

Or from Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee:

“After six months, it is clear that the only thing the stimulus bill has done is balloon our national deficit at a record-setting pace. The Administration told the American people that this bill would create jobs and prevent unemployment from going higher than 8 percent — yet the national unemployment rate is already 9.4 percent. Where are the jobs that were supposed to be immediately created from this trillion dollar bill? With each passing day, the list of questions regarding this ineffective spending bill grows longer and longer.”

Horsepucky, replies Brad DeLong, a University of California, Berkeley economics professor and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. (He used a different term, but hey, we’re a family news organization here.)

“The economy was in freefall, with output declining at a 6 percent annual rate each quarter when Obama took office,” DeLong said, but after the stimulus, the GDP (gross domestic product) shrunk by only 1 percent in the second quarter and is projected to increase by about 2 percent in this third quarter. “That’s a hell of a rapid turnaround, and the big regret is that George W. Bush didn’t have the guts to propose a stimulus back in September when it became apparent that one was needed.”

“Job losses are a lagging indicator and will be three or four months behind what’s happening to production,” DeLong said. “You’ve got to turn production around before you can turn employment around.”

DeLong’s complaints about the stimulus are that it was “too late and also somewhat too small” — the Obama Administration wanted more than $1 trillion in spending, but walked it back “because Obama decided he was going to be bipartisan, that he would take good policy and then walk two steps toward the Republicans and hold out his hand, and in retrospect that seems like a big mistake on his part. … He could’ve rammed through a bigger stimulus that would’ve done more good, but he thought he should start his presidency on a bipartisan, nonpartisan note.” Yet House Republicans remain in a ” ‘let’s oppose everything and try to make Obama’s presidency look like a failure’ ” stance, DeLong said.

If you’re wondering how ARRA money is being spent in your area, go take a look: staffers for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, say about $326 million has been allocated for spending in her 9th Congressional District, with details available on her Web site. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, set up a Google map showing ARRA spending in his 13th Congressional District and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi set one up for the 10th Congressional District, which he hopes to represent after the upcoming special election.