The monthly jobs report — with a gain of 171,000 jobs – reveals an economy that continues to witness slow growth. This jobs growth is a stark and welcome contrast to the European Union, now back in recession, losing jobs as the result of premature and harsh austerity. Yet we are still growing too slowly to put people back to work – over 20 million people still remain in need of full-time work.
The average jobs growth over the last year – a little less than 160,000 a month – is barely above the level needed to handle new entrants into the workforce. And with Europe in recession, China and India slowing, the U.S. economy is facing severe headwinds.
Last fall, President Obama called for passage of an American Jobs Act that would have provided investment in rebuilding our infrastructure, money to keep teachers on the job and rebuild schools, and other provisions. With the exception of the payroll tax extension, the act was blocked by Republicans in the House. Had it been passed, this economy would be in far better shape, with jobs growth higher, and more than a million additional Americans back to work.
Now Republicans hope to gain politically by decrying the slow jobs growth. This is like an arsonist bemoaning the losses of the fire that he lit.
When the election is over and Congress returns, it is vital that the pPresident and the legislators focus on jobs first. Inflicting austerity – sharp cuts in spending under the so-called sequester, an end to payroll tax cut and extended unemployment insurance – will hobble an already slow recovery, and could well drive the economy into recession.