Economic hope springs anew
Bad news travels fast. But on Friday, good economic news also spread quickly with the Labor Department’s release of these statistics:
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent in April. And the economy added 165,000 jobs — significantly higher than most analysts had anticipated.
Investors, encouraged by those numbers, boosted the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 142 points Friday to a record high closing at 14,973.96.
After five years of generally grim tidings from the financial marketplace, those upbeat figures are a welcome change.
Still, The Wall Street Journal delivered this necessary note of caution on its website Friday:
“The unemployment rate dropped for all the right reasons in April, but a broader rate that includes underemployed and discouraged workers rose, underlining concerns about the types of jobs being created. The drop in the main unemployment rate was driven by a jump in the number of people who count as employed, even as the number of unemployed declined.”
In other words, far too many Americans have been out of work for far too long. And until the adjective can be persuasively removed from that troubling — and lingering — term “jobless recovery,” America’s economy won’t be staging a strong enough rally to proclaim that happy days are here again.
Our elected officials in Washington could facilitate that overdue comeback with overdue deficit reduction based on bipartisan spending cuts and practical tax reforms.
Otherwise, a justifiably jittery business community will remain reluctant to expand amid continuing economic uncertainties.
But enough raining on Friday’s parade. Those jobs stats weren’t this week’s only promising signs. Both the housing and auto industries have been showing signs of a healthy revival.
On Thursday, Ford announced that it will add more than 2,000 jobs at a truck plant in Kansas City. That’s just part of the company’s plans to hire more than 15,000 new workers at U.S. factories over the next two years.
And remember, Ford is thriving without the help of a massive federal bailout.
General Motors and Chrysler, which did take the bailouts to get through the Great Recession, also have been doing better over the last year.
Fortunately for our community, despite some inevitable negative fallout, we have weathered the economic storm much better than most of the nation.
Still, we Americans are all in this 21st century global marketplace together.
And in the long run, our economy will never regain its full potential without a strong rise in real employment — and without the tough decisions needed to get our debt mess under control.