Press Statement

STATEMENT: Bad News in New Job Numbers

By Christian E. Weller

Washington, D.C. – The latest job estimate numbers released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics boast little good news, especially for the nation’s most vulnerable workers. The economy in April shed another 20,000 jobs, making this the fourth month in a row that employment fell. Over these past four months, the U.S. economy has now lost 260,000 jobs, and employment is lower than at any point since August 2007.

Economists continue to debate whether the current slowdown technically meets the definition of a recession, but it certainly feels like one to those in the labor market. This is especially true for workers more vulnerable to job losses as a result of swings in the economy, including workers with less than a high school education, minorities, and the young. To be sure, things are not looking rosy for anybody in the labor market right now. But for those already in a particularly precarious financial situation due to low wages, limited benefits, and high debt, the latest job figures highlight the fact that they are the first ones to feel the severe sting of a market downturn, as tends to be the case when the economy enters a period of downturn.

Before going into the demographic details of the labor market, though, it makes sense to consider the broader labor market context. Job growth for this business cycle, which started in March 2001, has been anemic to begin with. Average annualized monthly job growth has been 0.6 percent between March 2001 and April 2008—the lowest rate since World War II, and less than one-third of the long-term average before the current business cycle.