There's not really much bright side to today's job numbers: a hefty drop in unemployment, but only because so many people left the labor force. With the withdrawal of the temporary census jobs, the economy actually lost 125,000 payroll positions in the latest report.
Our own Dan Indiviglio has a chart that shows what's been happening:
There's a small ray of sunshine with the creation of some private-sector jobs, but the numbers are really thin. If you look at the overall figures, it seems clear that we're just returning to a very dismal trend that was temporarily disrupted by the census hiring. And whatever you think of federal stimulus spending, it's pretty clear that it kept some people working by plugging holes in state budgets, so as that wave of money recedes, we can expect to see a lot of downward pressure on the employment figures as states and municipalities lay off workers. The news reports are already full of teacher layoffs.
Eventually, of course, we'll return to job growth, but expect that to take some time, especially with the economic aftershocks still rocking the world economy. If next month's numbers look this bad, it will be pretty bad news for Democrats, who had allowed themselves to hope that things might be turning around. But it will be really bad news for households who have to manage through a long, ugly stretch of unemployment. Hopefully, this will spur Congress to stop squabbling over jobless benefits.
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