Note from Jonathan Cohn: Blah. That's the best way to describe the new jobs report, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics published this morning. The reports suggests that the economy created just 120,000 jobs, on net, last month. That's lower than expectations and lower than the job creation numbers for the last few months. It could be statistical noise and it could be an error. Some of the underlying measures actually look pretty good. But it could also be a sign that the recovery, such that it is, is slowing a bit.
The conservative justices' questioning about the health care law on Tuesday may or may not have betrayed a political bias. But it most certainly betrayed an ignorance of health economics. Henry Aaron, the Brookings economist who has been filing daily dispatches from the hearings, wrote about some of them: Several of the justices, notably Scalia and Alito, responded to the externalities argument by saying that every economic transaction creates similar externalities. "If I don't buy a Volt, I raise the price of Volts," said Scalia. Alito said much the same thing.
Source: Overall job growth by month, red for Bush presidency and blue for Obama presidency, via Steve Benen at Maddowblog. So when do we start calling it a recovery? This morning's employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy added 227,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate did not change: It's still 8.3 percent. But that is not surprising and that is not necessarily bad news.
This morning President Obama begins a three-city bus tour in the Midwest. His first stops will take him to prairie communities in Minnesota where he will likely talk about such broad-stroke job-creation proposals as payroll tax relief for employees and extended unemployment benefits, all of which is welcome. However, while he’s out in the heartland discussing strategies to kick start growth, the president would also do well to head for the region’s cities and metropolitan areas where the majority of jobs are lost or created. And he might consider talking not just about “top-down” national app
Nearly a day has passed since Peter Diamond announced he's withdrawing his nomination to the Federal Reserve Board in the face of intractable Republican opposition. I remain convinced that it's a travesty and I don't seem to be the only one. Via e-mail, here's Henry Aaron, the Brookings economist and quite possibly one of the most fair-minded people I know: I find it profoundly sad—for the nation and for the cause of reasoned debate on public policy—that a blocking minority of Senators has refused to permit Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve to come to a floor vote.
One of todays' economic surprises is the mismatch between the number of people without jobs and the number of jobs that are available. Typically the two track each other closely. But lately they have diverged, leaving economists to theorize on why. One explanation, discussed in this space last week, is that long-term unemployment has become a trap. Once people are out of work for a while, they have a harder time getting a new job: They might have trouble conducting the job search, because they've lost their home and phone service.
Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of "ramming" or "jamming" health care reform through Congress by using the budget reconciliation process. Put aside all the familiar rejoinders--that Republicans used it all the time to pass their bills, that the reconciliation process merely allows a majority to pass a law, etc.
Republicans argue that using the reconciliation process to pass health care reform, or some portion thereof, would be a perversion of the legislative process. Henry Aaron, the highly respected economist at Brookings, begs to differ. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, he explains: The idea of using reconciliation has raised concern among some supporters of health care reform. They fear that reform opponents would consider the use of reconciliation high-handed.
Are there a bunch of companies out there that could lower their greenhouse-gas emissions at negative cost—that is, they'd actually make money? There was a small blog debate about this last week, with Brookings economist Ted Gayer arguing that it's unlikely there are lots of firms just ignorantly passing up profits like this. And yet, as The Wall Street Journal reports today, there really do seem to be a lot of firms throwing away money by using energy inefficiently: Consider the lesson of Morgan Stanley’s trading floors.