Some reality about the jobs report


The Obama Administration is thrilled with the new employment figures, and it's clear the president will use this as a key part of his campaign (as long as the recovery keeps going and doesn't sputter again). The Republicans, of course, are complaining that it's not enough, that "we could do better," but that sounds awfully hollow and fits into the narrative that the GOP doesn't want anything to improve this year because the entire goal of the party is to defeat Obama in the fall.

But really, while it's encouraging, the new unemployment figures are still bogged down by two things: The labor force is growing faster than the nation is creating jobs -- and layoffs in the public sector are still a drag on the recovery.

There's a pretty good analysis on DailyKos, talking about the labor force issue. But there's more: Among people without a college education, the jobs picture is still really bleak. Same for people who have been unemployed for a while now and for youth. I could go on and on about the failure of trickle-down spending, but the reality is that the economy is still far too top heavy to all for a real recovery. Income inequality isn't just a political and moral issue; it's an economic downer. The U.S. economy depends overwhelmingly on consumer spending, and since all of the new new wealth of the past 20 years has gone to the very rich, most consumers don't have enough money to spend enough to keep the economy buzzing. And a few new IPOs that make a few more people rich isn't going to solve the problem.

Note that the one sector of the economy that is still losing jobs is government. That's a result of low taxes that can't fund public services (and can't provide the generally decent unionized jobs, including jobs for people without college degrees, that exist in the public sector).

I was intrigued by the Congressional Budget Office report comparing federal and private-sector workers, which the Republicans (and, I'm sure, some of my beloved trolls on this blog) will use as evidence that government is bloated and public-sector workers are overpaid. But that's not exactly what the report says:

CBO found that those without a college degree fared better as federal employees, since their pay was 36% higher than that of private-sector employees–particularly when it came to benefits. Those with advanced degrees such as doctorates, however, were generally better off in private industry, strictly from a monetary viewpoint–government pay was 18% lower than that of comparable individuals in the private sector.

In other words, federal pay is a lot more like the private sector used to be, back before the United States became one of the most socially stratifed societies in the developed world. The folks at the bottom do better, and the folks at the top don't get as rich, and the gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid is a lot smaller.

Which is one reason that Republicans hate public-sector unions and government employment -- it's better for the 99 percent.