For the Economy, It’s All About the Near Future

For the Economy, It’s All About the Near Future

The jobs numbers reported by the Labor Department earlier this month don’t matter, according to a New York Times article that reports the U.S. economy is at a “momentous inflection point—what matters is not what happened in the last few weeks, but where things end up several weeks from now.”

“The report that 379,000 jobs were added in February and that the unemployment rate edged down to 6.2 percent is good news,” the article states, but adds that the economy is “still in a deep hole, with nine million fewer jobs than a year ago, or around 12 million shy of where we would be if pre-pandemic job growth had continued over last year.” The article adds that if we continue to add jobs at the same pace it would take two years to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.

“The question,” the article says, “is whether job creation will accelerate in the months ahead as more Americans are vaccinated and begin to resume normal patterns of behavior, especially regarding travel and entertainment.” For the hard-hit restaurant industry, the article argues, widespread vaccination is the only way jobs will come back fully.

According to the article, February’s surge in employment was driven by people returning from temporary layoff, while the “number of permanent job losers remained steady at astronomical levels—2.2 million higher than a year ago.”

The most difficult question we now face, the article concludes, is whether there are permanent changes in behavior and business models that will have lasting effects on employment: “It is easy to describe the pathway back for jobs at schools and restaurants. But true economic health will mean that those 2.2 million people find their way back into the ranks of the employed as well, and that could take more than just a shot in the arm.”