When Did Adding Jobs Become a Negative?

The April jobs report came out today and by the grumblings and groans heard out of John Boehner’s tanning room, you would think the economy lost over 115K jobs instead of gained. I’ll admit I’m no great economist but I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around positive job growth being a bad thing.

When the January and February job reports were released, the Right had a problem. Growth was much higher than anticipated. What’s more, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and even Ron Paul still thought they had a shot at beating Mitt Romney. So they played dodge ball — transparent culture war dodge ball. The media ate it up like candy. Suddenly the jobs reports were old news. Higher than expected job growth was considered small potatoes.

In March, over 154K jobs were added. Growth has continued this month. And yet, if you read the online finance blogs and conservative posts, it’s as if the end of the world is upon us. Nearly 270K jobs added in two months and this is a negative? Really?

It would make for a rather simplistic argument to say that if this level of job growth were occurring under a Romney Presidency, the GOP would be singing my tune. But this is politics in 2012. If one party sees progress, the other party sees the abyss. If one party sees growth, the other sees a free-falling downward spiral. If one party comes out against eating babies, the other will come out with a brand new line of infant-wearing steak sauce.

Image via BLS.gov

Is it really that hard to do better than this?

The GOP is also quick to point out that the dip in the unemployment rate from 8.2 to 8.1 was caused by people opting out of the jobs race. I’ll grant them that but what I never hear, from either side of the aisle, is concern that the rise in unpaid internships is adversely affecting job growth. Internships aren’t just for poor college graduates anymore. People out of work for long periods of time are placing a premium on experience over paychecks. Consider the consequences for the economy. If you ran a company, why would you ever pay an employee when unpaid labor is so readily available?

The Right and Left can fudge the numbers all they like. The fact is growth is growth. Slow and steady but growth nonetheless. When the economy loses 150K jobs in a month, then we can have a collective ‘Oh shit’ moment.


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