Peter Morici: “Economy Adds 204,000 Jobs in October, But It’s Not Enough” – Money News

Posted on :Nov 08, 2013

By: Peter Morici

Money News

November 8, 2013

The Labor Department reported the economy created 204,000 jobs in October after  adding 163,000 jobs the prior month. This is much better than was expected, but  still well below what is needed to bring unemployment down to acceptable levels.

The jobless rate rose a tick to 7.3 percent, further indicating the  challenges ahead owing largely to recalibration of population statistics.

The government shutdown negatively affected employment, but the impact  was not large. Federal employment was down 12,000 in October after falling 5,000  in September. Some contraction was to be expected owing to continuing effects of  sequestration.

Subpar economic growth remains the much larger  problem.

Preliminary estimates indicate the economy expanded at 2.8  percent in the third quarter, up from 2.5 percent in the second. However,  consumer and business demand weakened, and much of the growth was inventory  build and a slowing of imports, and those are likely to reverse in the fourth  quarter.

Topping out of auto and home sales, along with the large  litigation settlements paid by Wall Street’s larger banks, will subtract from  growth too, and preliminary estimates for the fourth quarter are closer to 2  percent.

Obamacare mandates for employer-paid health insurance coverage,  anticipated for 2015, are already encouraging more part-time hiring. Along with  the visceral anti-business campaigns waged by unions, such as those targeting  McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, these trends are creating a broad part-time economy in  hospitality, retailing and other sectors where wages are subpar and job security  nonexistent.

The jobs count may be up, but for recent college graduates  and older adults, the situation is grim, and many working-age adults have  abandoned job searches. Adding in part-timers who want full-time employment and  discouraged adults who have abandoned searching for jobs, the unemployment rate  becomes 13.8 percent.

Even with more full-time positions, the pace of  jobs creation is well short of what is needed. About 360,000 jobs would lower  unemployment to 6 percent, but that would require GDP growth in the range of 4  to 5 percent. Over the last four years, the pace has been a paltry 2.3  percent.

Much stronger growth is possible. Four years into the Reagan  recovery, after a deeper recession than the one Obama inherited, GDP was  advancing at a 4.9 percent annual pace, and jobs creation was quite robust.

Administration policies and Congressional neglect of fundamental  economic issues, and endless ideological infighting and obsession with social  issues, bear considerable responsibility. Important examples include  restrictions on domestic petroleum development, unwillingness to address Asian  export subsidies and artificially undervalued currencies and increasingly costly  regulatory reviews.

Together these impair American competitiveness,  increase imports, drive jobs overseas and institutionalize a buyer’s market for  labor and suppress wages.

Eliminating the resulting $450 billion trade  deficit would create more than 4 million new jobs directly, and at least another  2.5 million as those additional workers’ spending spread through the economy.  This would raise living standards and reduce income inequality much more  pervasively than a living wage law could ever accomplish.

Also, speeding  up regulatory reviews to protect the environment, consumers and financial  stability would free up government resources for growth promoting infrastructure  and research and development investments and creative talent in the private  sector to more productive pursuits.

The White House is bogged down in  the Affordable Care Act morass and appeasing the left’s cultural agenda, and  Republicans endlessly obsess about legislation — from repealing Obamacare to new  restrictions on abortion that will never pass Congress.

Promoting  growth remains a stepchild.

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