WSJ Gets Carried Away With Optimism on Jobs

I was one of the economists who thought the February jobs report was relatively good given the weather. Still, that was only compared with an expectation of a very bad report. The WSJ went a bit overboard with a headline: "Outlook Brightens for Jobless."

The report still showed a loss of 36,000 jobs. It is certainly possible that if we remove the effect of the weather, that the number would have been a small positive, but this is nothing to write home about. The economy has to generate about 125,000 jobs a month just to keep even with the growth of the labor force. No one thinks the economy would have created that many jobs in February even if the weather had been great.

Given the severity of the downturn, we should be seeing job growth in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 400,000 a month. There is no plausible story that gets us there any time soon. And, there are many downside risks with the withdrawal of supports for the housing market, state and local government cutbacks, and the possibility of a higher dollar worsening the trade balance. So, the WSJ may want to rework that headline.

--Dean Baker

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