Finally, some “good” news for President Barack Obama: only 11,000 jobs were lost in November. That’s still too many—we need employment growth—but economists had been expecting over 100,000 job losses, so the numbers dramatically beat expectations. The New York Times‘ David Leonhardt calls this “some very good news” but warns, “It’s probably best to be conservative,” and notes that he’d be “surprised if this rate of progress continues in coming months.” Paul Krugman is even less sunny, arguing that the “good” news is actually bad news, because it will reduce pressure on politicians to do more to combat unemployment. Floyd Norris, also at the Times, isn’t so counterintuitive:
In my Off the Charts column in Saturday’s newspaper, I will cite one economic indicator that shows the unemployment rate has peaked. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, I think the bad days for jobs are very close to being over, and that this will not be a jobless recovery.
One reason is the sheer abruptness of the decline in employment during the recent recession. (Yes, I think it is over.) After Lehman Brothers failed, the unemployment rate rose at a faster clip than at any time since 1975. There was something approaching panic among employers. They feared sales would collapse and that credit would be unavailable. In that spirit, they cut every cost they could. Imports plunged because no one wanted to add inventory. Ad spending collapsed. And people were fired.
That has left many companies in a position where they may need to add workers quickly for even a small increase in business.
Call me the optimist.
At least we found one! The president will be visiting Allentown, Pennsylvania today and plans a major jobs speech on Tuesday. This news should make giving that speech a little bit easier.