Jobs: Glass Half Full?

Well, it must be spring. I actually saw another runner plodding along on the concrete at 5 a.m. this morning. Admittedly, the road scene didn’t mirror the start of the Cleveland Marathon. But hey — it made me smile just to see someone pass by with two thumbs up and a reflective vest flapping in the breeze.

Maybe I’m starting to appreciate the little things.

So running on that same track (c’mon, it’s Monday), I hope we are starting to see some improvement in the economy overall and in job growth specifically.

The Labor Department said last week that employers added 162,000 jobs in March (see NYT “Signaling Jobs Recovery, Payrolls Surged in March“) — even though many of the jobs are temporary and some 48,000 are connected to the 2010 census. And the unemployment rate overall remains near 10 percent.

Here’s from the article by Catherin Rampell and Javier C. Hernandez:

The economy needs to add more than 100,000 jobs a month just to absorb new entrants into the labor market, let alone provide a livelihood for the 15 million Americans already looking for work. Without constant, robust growth, the unemployment rate won’t budge. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that the rate will hover around 10 percent for the rest of the year.

Still, economists saw signs in the latest report that the economy was poised to make steady, if slow, progress.

“Every major industry, except financial services and information, showed gains in employment,” John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics, said. “From manufacturing, to construction, to retail, it really didn’t matter. They’re all hiring now.”

We will see in the next few months if this job growth is sustainable. And one of the keys now is to generate jobs for the long-term unemployed and those who are underemployed. Again, here’s from the NYT article:

Many of the jobs created last month were part time for people who really wanted full-time work. That caused the broader measure of unemployment along with those who are underemployed to tick up, to 16.9 percent, from 16.8 percent in February.

The situation looks worse for the long-term unemployed. The average length of time the jobless have been out of work has reached 31.2 weeks, the longest period since the government began keeping records in 1948.

So I guess you could view the job glass as still being half empty — and for those looking for work I’m sure that is the case.

But in the spirit of springtime, let’s go in the opposite direction and be optimistic that the glass is half full.

Saying that,  jobs and the economy — not health care — will be the defining issues in the mid-term elections in November.

And at that point, whether we view the glass as half full — or half empty — will make a huge difference in terms of who we elect to Congress and what the Obama administration can accomplish — or not — in the next two years.

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