The October jobs numbers were a mixed bag. Some 204,000 jobs were added to the economy but the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.3 percent. Doug Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum explains via email:
Unemployment rose to 7.3 percent (from 7.2), which reflect a loss of 735,000 jobs and a loss of 720,000 in the labor market. Labor force participation fell to the lowest since March 1978; 62.8. The household survey is just plain bad news that can be partially attributed to the shutdown disruption, but can’t be simply dismissed.
Continuing a theme, the report had soft details: hours and earnings were down to up modestly. Payroll growth continues to hover below 2 percent and there was a rise in the number of part time workers. The latter will reignite the concerns over the Affordable Care Act.
Couple that an increase in the underemployment rate from 13.6 to 13.8 percent and you have a mediocre economy at best.
This should put to bed the notion that the shutdown — or the sequester — has a significant impact on the jobs picture. Moreover, it suggests that pro-growth economic policies including an energy-development plan and immigration reform, which will provide an influx of much-needed high-skill employees, should be the Republicans’ focus. The main event these days understandably has been the Obamacare debacle. But whether you have insurance, lost your insurance or still don’t have insurance, unemployment or the fear of losing your job looms large for many Americans, thereby depressing consumer spending and the housing market. Unless the pattern of feeble job creation is broken we will remain in the Obama economic doldrums for the foreseeable future.