Outside View: U.S. economy adds 204,000 jobs in October

By PETER MORICI, UPI Outside View Commentator  |  Nov. 8, 2013 at 9:13 AM
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COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Labor Department reported the U.S. economy created 204,000 jobs in October after adding 163,000 jobs the prior month. This is much better than was expected but still well below what is needed to bring unemployment down to acceptable levels.

The jobless rate rose a tick to 7.3 percent, further indicating the challenges ahead owing largely to recalibration of population statistics.

The government shutdown negatively affected employment but the impact wasn't large. Federal employment was down 12,000 in October after falling 5,000 in September. Some contraction was to be expected owing to onging effects of sequestration.

Subpar economic growth remains the much larger problem.

Preliminary estimates indicate the economy expanded at 2.8 percent in the third quarter, up from 2.5 percent in the second. However, consumer and business demand weakened and much of the growth was inventory build and a slowing of imports, and those are likely to reverse in the fourth quarter.

Topping-out of auto and home sales, along with the large litigation settlements paid by Wall Street's larger banks, will subtract from growth, too, and preliminary estimates for the fourth quarter are closer to 2 percent.

Obamacare mandates for employer-paid health insurance coverage, anticipated for 2015, are already encouraging more part-time hiring. Along with the visceral anti-business campaigns waged by unions, such as those targeting McDonald's and Walmart, these trends are creating a broad part-time economy in hospitality, retailing and other sectors where wages are subpar and job security non-existent.

The jobs count may be up but for recent college graduates and older adults the situation is grim, and many working-age adults have abandoned job searches. Adding in part-timers who want full-time employment and discouraged adults who have abandoned searching for jobs, the unemployment rate becomes 13.8 percent.

Even with more full-time positions, the pace of job creation is well short of what is needed. About 360,000 jobs would lower unemployment to 6 percent but that would require gross domestic product growth in the range of 4-5 percent. Over the last four years, the pace has been a paltry 2.3 percent.

Much stronger growth is possible. Four years into the Reagan recovery, after a deeper recession than Obama inherited, GDP was advancing at a 4.9 percent annual pace and job creation was quite robust.

Obama administration policies and congressional neglect of fundamental economic issues, and endless ideological infighting and obsession with social issues, bear considerable responsibility. Important examples include restrictions on domestic petroleum development, unwillingness to address Asian export subsidies, artificially undervalued currencies and increasingly costly regulatory reviews.

Together, these impair U.S. competitiveness, increase imports, drive jobs overseas, institutionalize a buyers' market for labor and suppress wages.

Eliminating the resulting $450 billion trade deficit would create more than 4 million jobs directly and at least another 2.5 million as those additional workers' spending spread through the economy. This would raise living standards and reduce income inequality much more pervasively than a living wage law could ever accomplish.

Also, speeding up regulatory reviews to protect the environment, consumers and financial stability would free up government resources for growth promoting infrastructure and research-and-development investments and creative talent in the private sector to more productive pursuits.

The White House is bogged down in the Affordable Care Act morass and appeasing the Left's cultural agenda and Republicans endlessly obsess about legislation -- from repealing the ACA to new restrictions on abortion that will never pass Congress.

Promoting growth remains a stepchild.


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


(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.)

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