Slowly but surely the jobs picture across our nation is improving, though not at the speed needed to bring the economy back to full employment quickly. The latest jobs figures released by the federal government for February show that the economy added 192,000 new jobs, helping to drive the unemployment rate down to 8.9 percent.
The share of the population in the labor force, however, stood at 64.2 percent that month, the lowest since 1984, reflecting that there are many workers on the sidelines, not even seeking employment, who are likely to seek work once the job market improves. Still, this is the first time the unemployment rate fell below 9 percent since April 2009.
This month’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has some bright spots, but it remains the case that the pace of job growth is too slow. At the pace of job gains over the past quarter, it will take until 2033 to get our economy back to 5 percent unemployment.
Indeed, the employment recovery is still fragile, which is why economists are concerned that the federal budget passed by the House of Representatives for fiscal year 2011, which ends September 30, will lower economic growth and lead to job losses. The House Republican bill not only strips the budget of necessary investments that support the long-term competitiveness and productivity of the American economy, but also irresponsibly threatens to derail the recovery, which has yet to move beyond too-tepid job gains.
Make no mistake: Cutting necessary investments in our human capital, our infrastructure, and the next generation of scientific and technological advances—as is now being debated on Capitol Hill—will only exacerbate the weakness in the labor market both in the short run and long run.
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