Friday, June 5, 2009

The Jobs Market

Today's jobs report was a mixed bag.

On the one hand, nearly 350,000 jobs were lost in May. But, on the other hand, economists had predicted that 520,000 jobs would be lost. So the pace of job losses is slowing.

And the unemployment rate rose from 8.9% to 9.4%. Economists had predicted that the unemployment rate would be 9.2%.

CNN quoted Kurt Karl, chief economist at Swiss Re, as saying, "That 345,000, while an improvement, is still a lot of jobs. We're not out of the woods yet."

Indeed, the trees are still burning down. But they aren't burning as fast. Some water has been sprayed on them and that's slowing down the fire, but it isn't stopping it yet. We have to keep spraying.

Still, job losses were lighter than they have been since last September, which prompted a mixed reaction on Wall Street. Dow Jones and S&P 500 were up slightly; NASDAQ was virtually unchanged.

Paul La Monica cautions, at, that it is wise to look upon this news with a wary eye.

Certainly, there is a lot to be said for taking the "glass is half–full" approach instead of seeing the glass as being "half–empty."

My brother is a "half–full" type, and I listen to him (probably more than he realizes!) when he speaks of the value of positive thinking.

But I have heard a lot of people saying a lot of things since the economic meltdown last fall, and it all seems to bring me back to a line I heard James Whitmore utter once in a movie.

In the movie, Whitmore played Harry Truman in a filmed version of Whitmore's one–man play, "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!"

And the line's one of those things that makes you think, if it isn't an actual quote, it ought to be.

Anyway, the Truman character apparently is told by an invisible companion that some economists should be consulted. Part of the Truman character's reply is: "If you line up all the economists end to end, they'll point in different directions."

See what I mean? If Truman didn't say that, he should have.

Whether he said it or not, it sums up my feeling about the economy these days. Everyone's pointing in different directions.

In cautioning people not to make too much of the less–bad jobs report and the recent gains on Wall Street, La Monica observes, "Now this may seem overly gloomy. But it's not a case of being pessimistic as opposed to optimistic. It's just realistic."

And the reality for the unemployed is not that jobs are being added to the economy. It's that fewer jobs are being lost than expected.

It isn't the same thing at all.

In this case, less is not more.

1 comment:

del pattersondd said...

What Truman should have said, "If all the economists were at the bottom of the would be a good start"