The last jobs report was about as bad as it could have been without actually putting us back in recession. A downward revision of April’s job creation, coupled with a May net of 69,000 wasn’t even enough to keep the unemployment rate flat. The last 27 months of anemic growth have let the rate drift down only because massive numbers of Americans are giving up looking.
Almost everyone who was paying attention knows this was a bad report. A Gallup poll had 9% of people calling it positive – probably people who think anything not negative is good, or people who found jobs – while 42% called it negative to some degree. Ten percent had no opinion, and 40% called it “mixed,” which is pretty much the “no opinion” for people who don’t want to admit they weren’t paying attention.
Naturally, Postblogger Ezra Klein runs a piece headlined: “Most Americans didn’t think the last jobs report was bad news.” It’s true that the number of people who think things are getting worse hasn’t gotten worse, and the additional 3% who think rate it “poor” is pretty much statistical noise.
But people can go a long time before realizing that changes are permanent. In the mid-90s, I worked for a while in Johnston, Pennsylvania, and many people talked about how they were waiting “for the Mill to come back.” The Mill had been closed for many years, and wasn’t coming back, that, or any other century.
The economy can tread water for a long time, not getting better or worse, slogging along an a Euro-stupor, or a sushi-style lost decade. People won’t necessarily rate things as getting worse, even though they know they’re not getting any better.
But that doesn’t make losing 9-42 any less of a loss.