The economy added another 292,000 jobs last month. Job-creation estimates for both October and November were also revised upward, adding 50,000 new jobs to previous estimates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 284,000 per month.”
In 2015, the economy added a total of 2.55 million private-sector jobs, more than in any single year under President Bush. We’ve added private-sector jobs for 70 consecutive months now, the longest sustained stretch of job growth on record. And the labor force participation rate rose last month, with 466,000 Americans joining the workforce.
“The remarkable thing is how consistent employment growth has been over the past three or four years,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the New York Times. “We’re getting at least 200,000 jobs per month on a consistent basis. That’s quite an achievement.”
I don’t know about you, but such happy talk always makes me nostalgic. For example, remember when John Boehner used to recite the phrase “job-killing ObamaCare” every time he opened his mouth?
Since ObamaCare was signed into law, the economy has added 13.5 million jobs.
Remember when the likes of Rush Limbaugh were predicting that if Obama was re-elected, “we’re doomed” and a complete economic collapse was inevitable?
“There’s no ‘if’ about this. And it’s gonna be ugly. It’s gonna be gut-wrenching, but it will happen. The country’s economy is going to collapse if Obama is re-elected. I don’t know how long: a year and a half, two years, three years.”
And remember this guy, immediately after the 2012 election?
Since that tweet, the economy has added another 8.45 million jobs. And even after its recent China-related decline, the Dow is up 3,700 points, an increase of 29 percent. Welcome to Barack Obama’s second term indeed.
And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Mitt Romney bragging back in 2012 that if he was elected president, he would use his managerial skill and business acumen to bring the nation’s jobless rate all the way down to 6 percent by January of 2017.
The jobless rate is now 5 percent, and it has been below the Romney target for January 2017 for the past 15 months.
Now, none of this means that we don’t face important economic challenges. We do. As economist Max Dvorkin writes at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, a long-term process of “job polarization” continues to gut the American working and middle class, and nobody knows what to do about it.
The economy is producing more high-paying managerial type jobs and also more low-paying service-type jobs. But the jobs in the middle — the routine office-type “cognitive” jobs and the routine, manual assembly-line and construction type jobs — are disappearing.
“As has been argued in the economic literature, the most likely drivers of job polarization are automation and offshoring, as both these forces lower the demand for middle-skill occupations relative to the rest,” Dvorkin writes.
“Since the processes of automation and offshoring will most likely continue, it is expected that the disappearance of routine jobs in the U.S. will also continue. Understanding the impact of polarization on the labor market is important and remains an active topic of economic research.”
That’s a challenge for politicians as well as economists, because continued job polarization will drive continued growing economic, social and political inequality. And in the face of such change, I just don’t think that 20th century nostrums such as “lower taxes and less regulation” are in any way adequate to address it. I’m not saying the Democrats have the answer for it either, but at the very least they are willing to recognize that a profound economic shift is underway, and that how — and whether — we respond is going to shape the nature and character of this nation for generations.
What’s happening to people is not a result of them getting lazy. It is not a consequence of government handouts and it is certainly not a figment of their imagination. It is showing up everywhere in the economic data and more importantly in the daily lives of millions of Americans. And while there can be substantial rewards for clawing your way into the “nonroutine cognitive” workforce, where robots and $10-a-day overseas workers are less of a threat, not everyone can do that and there wouldn’t be enough jobs for everyone if they could.