Economy

+120,000 Jobs for March

Today's Balance Sheet

Moneybox

The economy added 120,000 nonfarm jobs in March—far less impressive growth than February's 240,000 jobs, which were revised upward from last months estimate of 227,000. The unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percent to 8.2 percent, according to today's Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Economists had predicted that 205,000jobs would be added in March. The numbers released today are far lower than expectations, and the +150,000 threshold needed to keep job growth at pace with population growth.

March's Disappointing Jobs Report

(Chrstopher/Flickr)

For the March jobs report, economists were expecting another month where the economy grew by more than 200,000 jobs. Instead, what we received—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—was a disappointing backslide into the anemic months of last fall. The economy created 120,000 jobs in March, a huge drop compared to previous months. At the same time, however, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent.

Jobless Claims Drop to Four-Year Lows

Today's Balance Sheet

The New York Times

In the week that ended March 31, jobless claims droppedto 357,000—the lowest they have been in four years, according to new numbers from the Labor Department. Pennsylvania posted the biggest drop in claims—1,956—while Texas posted the highest jump—4,185. The steady gains that have been happening since the fall are likely due to fewer layoffs and the strengthening of the labor market, as proved once again by last month's private-sector jobs numbers.

Auto Sales on the Rise

Today's Balance Sheet

The Economist

Auto sales were on the upswing in March, thanks to a thirst for fuel-efficient vehicles and the unseasonably warm weather. Automakers sold 1.4 million light vehicles last month, with hybrids and more efficient models leading the way. General Motors sold over 100,000 models that get 30+ miles to the gallon—accounting for almost half of the 231,052 cars sold in March. U.S. sales on Toyota Prius hybrids jumped 54 percent last month to 28,711 cars—a record for the company. Chrysler had the best month of sales it has had in four years—a 34 percent jump from this time last year.

U.S. Manufacturing, Just Gangbusters

Today's Balance Sheet

The Economist

A new report from the Institute for Supply Management shows that manufacturing employment reached a nine-month high in March, and that the manufacturing sector is on a 32-month growth streak. The steady growth in the United States is a marked contrast from Europe, where manufacturing hit a three-month low last month. The healthy manufacturing numbers released yesterday are further fueling economists' predictions that the March jobs numbers—scheduled to be released Friday—will again top 200,000. 

Not World Bank of America

The process for selecting the leader of the international finance organization should give the rest of the world a say.

(Courtesy of the World Bank)

Americans committed to development and to the U.S. playing a positive role on the global stage should encourage President Barack Obama to announce his support for an open, transparent, and meritocratic process in selecting the next leader of the World Bank. In the past, other countries have simply deferred to the U.S. to nominate a new head, whose selection was then followed by a pro forma up-or-down vote by the World Bank’s board. The U.S. has now nominated Dr. Jim Yong Kim, currently president of Dartmouth. In part because of the disastrous consequences of Bush ramming through Paul Wolfowitz, who later was forced to resign, other countries put forward nominees, including the Africans also put forward a nominee: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Unemployment Hits 10.8 Percent in the Eurozone

Today's Balance Sheet

The Washington Post

Eurostat—the European Union's statistics agency—says unemployment in the eurozone went up by 162,000 in February. Total unemployment reached 17.134 million—10.8 percent—after ten straight months of rising, the highest recorded figure since the data began being compiled in January 1995. "We expect it to go higher, to reach 11 percent by the end of the year,” said Raphael Brun-Aguerre, an economist at JPMorgan. “You have public sector job cuts, income going down, weak consumption. The economic growth outlook is negative and is going to worsen unemployment.” 

Will Obama Get Blamed for High Gas Prices?

The good old days. (Flickr/photomatt28)

Everyone involved in politics knows that there is almost nothing the president can do to affect the price of gasoline. Democrats know this. Republicans know this. People in the oil industry certainly know this. But they all, at various times, play a game in which they try to deceive the American public into believing something they know to be false. So right now, an oil industry group is running ads saying the high price of gas is Barack Obama's fault (you'll be shocked to hear that the ubiquitous Koch brothers are involved). Republican leaders are saying the increasing price at the pump is Obama's fault. And what about the public? Are they buying it?

The polls we've seen so far actually show that the answer is, not really...

The Employer Strikes Back

In the lockout era, winning union representation is not a one-time thing.

(Flickr/Darwin Bell)

Becki Jacobson, 48, has worked as a process technician at American Crystal Sugar Company in Minnesota since she was 18. Eight months ago, she showed up for work, but the company refused to let her start her shift. 

Like 1,300 other members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco & Grain Millers union (BCTGM) at American Crystal Sugar, Jacobson wasn’t fired.  She was locked out.  Crystal Sugar is wielding a powerful weapon against its workers: Its right to deny them work for refusing a worse contract after their existing one expired. Jacobson and her co-workers are left with a choice. They can hold out while non-union workers do their jobs, make huge concessions, or dissolve the union.

Someone's Lucky Day

(Flickr/doncav)

Since the MegaMillions jackpot is now at a record $540 million, I thought it'd be a good time to link back to an interview interview I did in 2010 with the brilliant filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz, whom you may know from his Oscar-nominated documentary "Spellbound," or his excellent feature film "Rocket Science." I interviewed him about his film "Lucky," which offers portraits of lottery winners to see how their lives changed after coming in to millions of dollars. The film doesn't offer simple answers to the questions it poses, but overall it's not a pretty picture. Here's an excerpt:

You have one subject who had his siblings put a hit out on him (unsuccessful, I should note). Were there any other depths of human depravity this subject exposed that surprised you?

That was a winner named Buddy who, indeed, had his siblings try to kill him. Once was through a hit man. Buddy also told us that the bolts were taken out of his car and that he was given arsenic twice. And while this gives the movie some really wretched moments, I tried hard to not make a film that just fed into an audience's built-in sense of resentment toward people who had won money they didn't deserve...

Summers' Colleague Criticizes Kim

(AP Photo / Michael Dwyer)

Larry Summers has been unnaturally silent on President Obama’s surprise decision to pass him over for the World Bank presidency in favor of Dartmouth University president and public health hero Jim Yong Kim. Well, one of Summers’ closest chums at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Lant Pritchett, has now gone public with a scorching blast at Kim. Pritchett told Forbes magazine, “It’s an embarrassment to the U.S. You cannot with a straight face say this person is the most qualified to lead the World Bank.”

Jobs versus JOBS: Obama’s Mixed Message

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

More mixed signals from the Obama administration on jobs: A craven capitulation on regulation in the name of job-creation, and a surprisingly good speech by a top official on the importance of American manufacturing.

President Barack Obama will shortly sign the so-called bipartisan “JOBS” Act. The law is neither about creating jobs, nor is it bipartisan. The law exempts an estimated 80 percent of new publicly traded corporations from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) usual disclosure requirements for up to five years after their initial public offering (IPO).

"All of the Above" on Energy

Today's Balance Sheet: New developments on the energy front

The Wall Street Journal

In the wake of Obama's big energy push last week, several new developments in domestic energy production are in motion. The Environmental Protection Agency is putting greenhouse gas emission limits on new power plants, a move that will make it near impossible for new coal plants to be built in the United States—a win for those trying to combat climate change. 

A Surprise World Bank Pick

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

President Barack Obama startled handicappers by selecting Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim as the U.S. candidate to lead the World Bank rather than the reported front-runner Larry Summers, Obama's former National Economic Council director.

The Korean-born Kim is a medical doctor, anthropologist, and MacArthur fellow, best known for his pioneering work to fight HIV and tuberculosis in the Third World. Kim helped develop treatments for drug-resistant TB, and then successfully pushed to reduced the cost of anti-TB drugs. He is close associate of Dr. Paul Farmer, the lead founder of Partners in Health and subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Obama Picks Jim Yong Kim for World Bank

Today's Balance Sheet: Obama nominates the Dartmouth College head for the prestigious position.

The New York Times

In a surprise move, President Barack Obama is nominating Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank. The announcement will be made by Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—who first recommended Kim for the post—in the Rose Garden later today.

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