Jobs: Quality and Quantity at Risk

Today’s big economic news is that the U-S economy added 162,000 new non-farm jobs last month.
That’s fewer than the 185,000 or so that economists expected, but it continues a trend of gains.

The unemployment rate declined to 7.4%, from 7.6%, partly because more workers stopped looking for jobs. The unemployment rate is as low as it’s been since December 2008.

The numbers describe an economy that is growing, but slowly – about 1.4% in the year’s first half.

Worrisome, too, is that many of the jobs that were added last month were in lower-wage industries like food services and retail. In fact, average hourly earnings fell slightly last month. So did hours worked.

Bottom line: more Americans are working, but our incomes are stalled. In fact, some measures of real, or inflation-adjusted earnings, are lower than they were during the Reagan era.

The greatest stagnation is in the bottom half of the income scale. Over the long term, that’s a problem for a country that depends so much on consumers – and not just the highest-paid 50% of them — having money to spend.

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