The economy added jobs – lots of jobs – in February and job growth beat estimates, but there’s more to the story than that. If you look closely at the report, it doesn’t bode well for too many American workers.
Some 242,000 jobs were added last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic – beating Wall Street’s predictions of 190,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains steady at 4.9 percent, its lowest level since February 2008. The number of Americans entering in the workforce also rose hitting a 13-month high.
President Obama was quick to take credit and to throw a jab at conservatives:
“Our businesses have created jobs every single month since I signed that 'job killing' ObamaCare bill," the president said. "Think about this: If somebody had told us seven years ago that we would get to this point — at a time when we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, and the unemployment rate hit 10 percent — we wouldn't have believed it."
"The numbers and the facts don't lie, and I think it's useful given that there seems to be an alternative reality out there from some of the political folks that America is down in the dumps," he said. "It's not: America is pretty darn great right now."
Digging into the report we find very disappointing news on a number of fronts.
Here are five ways the jobs report is actually worse than the headlines and President Obama claim:
1. The long-term unemployed still can’t find work – Some 2.2 million American workers were jobless for 27 weeks or more – 58 percent higher than before the recession began in December 2007 – and they account for nearly a third (27.7 percent) of the unemployed.
"With the unemployment rate as low as it is, people are forgetting about workers who have been unemployed for very extended periods as well as people who are still on the sidelines of the labor market," said Claire McKenna, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy organization. The long-term jobless figures, she said "are not evidence of a strong labor market."
2. Underemployment is on the rise – If you want a full-time job but have to take part-time work or have had your hours reduced, you might not agree with President Obama’s comments. For another month, there are 6 million involuntary part-time workers and that number hasn’t budged since November.
3. Wages won’t move – The average hourly earnings fell 3 cent (0.1 percent) from the prior month, the first decline since December 2014. This translates to an annualized decline of 2.2 percent.
"The report says that we have a healthy economy… But it's not pressuring wages yet," said William E. Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO. "We need everyone to be aware that our wages have not rebounded, so we still have a ways to go before the labor market is really tight."
4. New jobs concentrated in lower-wage occupations – Some 95,000 jobs came from retail, bars and restaurants which don’t carry high salaries or wages. For younger workers coming out of college, low wages make it difficult to pay off student loans.
The jobs numbers are mixed at best, but for many Americans this monthly data don’t inspire hope or trust that the policies instituted under the Obama Administration are actually helping their situations. If your paycheck is the same despite rising costs of living, if your hours were cut, or you can only find part-time work although you want to work 40 hours a week, or if you have been unemployed for a very long-time, there’s nothing “pretty darn good” about this economy.