President Obama addressed a White House forum on women and the economy April 6, saying the U.S. employment rate has shown continued expansion for 25 consecutive months.
Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington — Despite weak construction investment, the U.S. economy has added private-sector jobs for 25 straight months, for a total of 4.1 million jobs over that period, chief White House economic adviser Alan Krueger says.
Krueger said that manufacturing continues to be a bright spot and added 37,000 jobs last month. At the same time, the U.S. unemployment rate in March fell slightly to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent the month before, according to statistics released by the U.S. Labor Department April 6.
“After losing millions of good manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the recession, the economy has added 466,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 25 months — the strongest growth for any 25-month period since September 1995,” Krueger said in a White House blog post. “To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, the president has proposed tax incentives for manufacturers, enhanced training for the workforce, and measures to create manufacturing hubs,” he said.
According to the Labor Department statistics, the unemployment rate has fallen approximately a full percentage point since August 2011.
President Obama told the White House Forum on Women and the Economy on April 6 that no single issue is more important in the United States than restoring economic security for American families in the wake of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Obama stressed that in addressing the challenges of employment in the U.S. economy it is also imperative to address the challenges that are often unique to women’s economic security.
“That begins with making sure everyone who wants a job has one. So we welcome today’s news that our businesses created another 121,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate ticked down,” Obama said. “Our economy has now created more than 4 million private-sector jobs over the past two years, and more than 600,000 in the past three months alone.”
Obama warned that there will still be ups and downs in the U.S. economy as the recovery begins gaining momentum. The total of 121,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy in March is down from more than 200,000 jobs on average that were added each month for the previous three months.
The Labor Department’s employment and unemployment surveys indicate the continuing challenges facing construction workers as a result of the collapse in house building following the bursting of the housing bubble near the beginning of 2008, Krueger said. The unemployment rate for construction workers stands at 17.2 percent, more than double the national average.
Because of weak private-sector demand for construction investment and the nation’s continuing need for improved infrastructure, including maintenance of existing highways, bridges and ports, the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal to increase and modernize the nation’s infrastructure is targeted to support the economy immediately and in the future, Krueger said.
Other sectors with net job increases in March included leisure and hospitality, which added 39,000 jobs, professional and business services with an increase of 31,000 new jobs, and financial activities with an addition of 15,000 jobs.
Krueger noted that retail trade lost 33,800 jobs, construction lost 7,000 jobs, and government lost 1,000 jobs in March. Almost three-quarters of the slower job growth in March relative to February was due to slower growth in temporary help services and health care and day care services, he added.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said March 26 at the National Association for Business Economics' annual conference in Washington that job creation in the United States has been improving in recent months. Private payroll employment increased by nearly 250,000 jobs per month, on average, in the three months ending in February, and by about 190,000 jobs per month over the past 12 months.
At the same time, layoffs in the public sector are moderating, and taken together with a lengthening of the average workweek, these employment gains have contributed to a significant increase in aggregate hours worked, Bernanke told the economists.
“The increase in hours worked is encouraging, because the decline in hours during the recent recession was extraordinary,” he said. From the peak of this economic series in December 2007 to its trough in February 2010, aggregate hours on the job by production workers fell by a remarkable 9.5 percent, Bernanke said; by comparison, production-worker hours declined by 5.75 percent during the 1981–82 recession.
But even with the improvement in the employment picture in the United States, greater economic growth is essential, Bernanke said.
“Recent improvements are encouraging, but, as I have noted, in an absolute sense, the job market is still far from normal by many measures, and millions of families continue to suffer the day-to-day hardships associated with not being able to find suitable employment,” Bernanke said. “Although most spells of unemployment are disruptive or costly, the persistently high rate of long-term unemployment we have seen over the past three years or so is especially concerning.”
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U.S. Employment Expands for 25th Consecutive Month