A Slow Return to Job Creation

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Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

At least that’s the warning coming from the White House, which today released its annual economic outlook report predicting that an average of 95,000 jobs will be created each month this year.

That’s quite an improvement from the more than 700,000 jobs the economy was shedding when Obama took office, but it still falls well short of the 125,000 to 150,000 new jobs that must be created each month just to keep up with normal increases in the job pool — never mind those needed to pull the country out of the recent employment crater.

The Economic Policy Institute summarizes the problem like this: “Each month we need to create 127,000 jobs just to keep unemployment from rising. Therefore, we actually need 10.9 million new jobs to get us back to 4.9 percent unemployment.”

It’s something the White House report acknowledges.

[E]ven a quick return to job growth will not immediately eliminate employment problems, as it will take time to create the millions of new jobs needed to return to normal employment levels. Many workers will have difficulty finding work for some time to come.

Economists, of course, have been predicting all along that employment numbers — the so-called “lagging indicator” — would be the last thing to rebound from the downturn. The irony is that if the White House is right about that 95,000 figure, it will mean the unemployment rate will likely rise later this year, even as the economy is rebounding and jobs are being created. Look for Republicans to focus on that rate — not the creation of new jobs — as November’s elections get closer.

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