Fantastic News On Jobs

by: Felix Salmon

What mean reversion? This is two fantastic jobs reports back-to-back, with the second even better than the first.

You thought the December jobs report was great? I certainly did — but it’s been revised, now, and it’s even better than was first reported. And the January report is positively glowing.

Unemployment was just 8.3% in January, marking three successive months where it fell by 0.2 percentage points. This time last year, there were 13.9 million unemployed; that figure has now dropped by 1.2 million people, or 8.3%. That’s really impressive for an economy which is hardly booming. And it’s a real decline, too: the employment-to-population ratio is just as high as it was a year ago, even as the total population has risen by 3.6 million people.


One glance at these charts is enough to show that there’s still a very long way to go. Unemployment is far above where it should be; payrolls need to stay strong for a long time to make up for all the jobs lost during the recession; much more of the population needs to be working; and, most importantly, we need to do something about the stubbornly large ranks of the long-term unemployed.

But none of these things can be addressed in a single month: creating jobs takes time. And what we’ve been seeing over the past couple of months is an economy moving smartly in exactly the right direction.

And lookie here! If you check out Table A-5, and look at the unemployment rate for male Gulf War-era II veterans (that is, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), you’ll see that it’s fallen from 15.5% to 7.7% in one year. If that’s not great news, I don’t know what is.

So while there’s a lot of work to be done, let’s allow ourselves a bit of celebration today. For all the problems in the world — and the US economy could still be derailed if something nasty happens in Europe — things are moving very much in the right direction for the time being. Long may it last.