As writeups begin to appear about the August jobs report, I’ve noticed a fair number of people describing it as “strong.” I wish reporters would stop doing this when the BLS announces fairly ordinary numbers like the 201,000 new jobs we got last month.¹ This isn’t terrible or anything, but jobs have been growing at about this rate for so long that it seems as if we’ve finally all been socialized to think of anything over 200,000 or so as strong. But it’s really not. If I had my druthers, the starting point for “strong” would be 300,000 new jobs—and we’ve hit that number only five times in the past five years.
So let’s not get carried away. Donald Trump will probably describe this as the greatest jobs report ever, but the rest of us should stick to more judicious descriptions. 200,000 new jobs is fairly good, but that’s it. We can do better, and we should.
¹They should especially knock it off when the labor force shrinks and the number of people working drops by 423,000. That just isn’t a great jobs report.