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Economy adds 175,000 jobs in May but trouble ahead

By PETER MORICI, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   June 7, 2013 at 9:36 AM   |   Comments

COLLEGE PARK, Md., June 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in May but that is hardly the 360,000 jobs needed each month to bring unemployment down to 6 percent over the next three years.

The jobless rate rose to 7.6 percent.

Adding in discouraged adults and part-timers who want full-time jobs, the unemployment rate becomes 13.8 percent. And, for many years, inflation-adjusted wages have been falling and income inequality rising -- this remains a buyers' market.

Sluggish growth is one culprit. The Bush expansion delivered only 2.1 percent annual gross domestic product, that's about the same as the Obama recovery after 45 months.

Now, defense cutbacks negotiated with Congress during U.S. President Barack Obama's first term have subtracted some $62 billion from federal spending since last fall and an additional $200 billion in higher taxes and sequestration spending cuts are further reducing consumer outlays and government spending in the second and third quarters of this year.

With all this fiscal drag, economists expect growth to slow to less than 2 percent in the second quarter and jobs creation is likely to slow through the spring and summer.

With southern Europe's depression dampening continental demand for goods made in Germany and other northern states, the prospects for U.S. exports and cut-priced competition from Europe in U.S. markets is heating up, growth and jobs creation could stay depressed for a long time.

Similarly, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's much heralded stimulus and reforms appears to come down to debasing its currency to jack up exports to North America, and very little else. Labor market reforms have been shelved and no sign of easing immigration policy or new incentives for family formation to counter its declining population. That spells yet more cut rate competition for U.S. manufacturers.

It is hard to imagine the Federal Reserve could do more to support growth. Already, it is buying virtually all the new mortgage back securities and 70 percent of the new federal debt issued each month.

This is keeping interest rates low and boosting new home construction but new home construction is less than 3 percent of the economy and cannot carry the recovery. And low rates penalize the elderly who rely on certificates of deposit and fixed-income investments, reducing their spending on goods and services. Many cash-strapped elderly have returned to work, often taking jobs from younger workers.

Stronger growth would help and is possible. Forty-five months into the Reagan recovery, GDP was advancing at a 5 percent annual pace. Nowadays, that pace would bring unemployment down to 5 percent pretty quickly.

More rapid growth requires importing less and exporting more, including dealing with the $450 billion trade deficit on oil by drilling more offshore and in Alaska and with China by addressing its undervalued currency and protectionism.

Faster growth also requires right-sizing business regulations to make investing in new jobs less expensive and time consuming. Regulatory enforcement is needed to protect the environment, consumers and financial stability but must be delivered cost effectively and quickly to add genuine value.

Overall, more jobs require trimming back on tax increases and spending cuts and more pro-growth trade, energy and regulatory policies.

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(Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and widely published columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @pmorici1)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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