But, despite the addition of 243,000 new jobs last month and another drop in the nation’s unemployment rate, many — not even all of whom are political opponents of the president — see a long way yet to go.
“Today’s jobs report is encouraging, but we should judge it against the overall sluggishness of the economic recovery and a persistently large jobs deficit that remains after 23 straight months of private-sector job creation,” says Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a Washington think tank which has supported many of Obama’s initiatives. “Payroll employment is still 5.6 million jobs short of where it was at the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, there are four jobless workers for every job opening, and long-term unemployment remains at an historic high level.”
Ted Ellis, mayor of Bluffton, Ind., and president of the National League of Cities, wants Washington to take further action to create more jobs.
“We continue to urge our national leaders to take a page from our local officials. They must stop their partisan bickering and start working quickly,” Ellis says. “The American people need Washington to get to work on making the investments -– like infrastructure -– that will put all our people back to work and make the country economically competitive for decades to come.
“To everyone in Washington we say it again: Campaign on your record and not with people’s lives. It’s time to get to work,” Ellis adds.
Obama included increased federal spending on infrastructure as part of his overall American Jobs Act but Senate Republicans blocked action on those provisions.
Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a Washington progressive policy shop, quoted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saying, “We still have a long way to go before the labor market can be said to be operating normally. Particularly troubling is the unusually high level of long-term unemployment.”
‘True Casualties of Wall Street’s Excesses’
Borosage notes that nearly one-third of the unemployed have been out of work for a year or more.
“These are the true casualties of Wall Street’s excesses,” he says. “American companies are producing more now than they did before the collapse. But Americans aren’t sharing in the rewards. Profits margins are at record heights; CEO salaries have soared, but there is no recovery in jobs, and wages and benefits continue to fall behind.”
There’s nothing in Friday’s jobs report to deter Congress from moving quickly to enact extensions either for Obama’s middle-class payroll tax cut or unemployment insurance (UI) through the end of the year — without cutting benefits or imposing new barriers to receiving benefits, according to CBPP’s Stone.
“The recovery still needs a boost, and besides giving critical support to unemployed workers, unemployment insurance is one of the highest bang-for-the-buck boosters that policymakers have in their arsenal,” he says. “Under current law, however, the provision of additional weeks of emergency UI to workers who exhaust their regular UI benefits (after 26 weeks in most states) and the payroll tax cut that policymakers enacted at the end of 2010 are scheduled to expire at the end of this month, contributing to [the Congressional Budget Office’s] dim view of near-term economic growth. The President and Congress must extend them through the end of the year.”