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August 6, 2005
Job Creation A Bummer For The Gray Lady

CQ frequently criticizes the New York Times, especially its editorial board, for its obvious and unacknowledged biases in its coverage (and non-coverage) and its analysis. We should consider how depressing it must be for those editorial-board members, whose staunch leftist politics have put it outside of the mainstream, to see the policies of their opponents achieve such success.

George Bush has had an unbroken string of growth since putting his economic plan into place in 2002 and 2003, which has now resulted in a significant and unexpected (at the NYT, anyway) rise in tax revenues and a major drop in the federal deficit. Now the new job-creation numbers show that new work has picked up across the board. All of this happy news for Americans just seems to bring out the inner pessimist at the Paper of Record, however:

Still, it's not robust. If jobs were being created today at the same pace as in other economic recoveries since World War II, the monthly average would be about 250,000. ...

The rates ticked up slightly for most groups in July, including for African-American men and high school dropouts. That's encouraging because it's generally assumed that if the least-advantaged workers can find jobs, higher-skilled workers will do even better. Nevertheless, employment rates are still well below their most recent peak, in 2000.

Because the demand for workers has been subpar for some four years now, wages have suffered. Average hourly wages rose a surprising 0.4 percent in July, the strongest monthly surge in a year. But they're up only 2.7 percent over the past year, hardly keeping up with inflation. Asked about that yesterday, Secretary Chao replied that overall compensation - which includes employer-provided health care and other benefits - was rising faster than the cost of living. That's correct, but somewhat disingenuous. The fact that workers' raises are, in effect, being diverted to cover the exploding cost of benefits is hardly a positive development.

It's difficult to know where to begin with this nonsense. The overall compensation shows why wages don't rise as fast -- because the employers provide more services to their workers. Twenty years ago, health insurance didn't come as an expectation. Now, most employers not only offer that as a given, but also provide dental, vision, and in some cases legal insurance. Many offer mental-health services for employees and their families. If the cost of these health-care premiums concerns the Times, perhaps they would care to support capping malpractice awards and legal fees in order to help keep the cost of providing these services down.

The Times displays this editorial pessimism in the face of its own news report in the same edition, which paints a much different picture of the economy and the position of workers:

Indeed, most recent statistics point to an accelerating economy after a modest dip in output growth to 3.4 percent in the second quarter, from 3.8 percent in the first three months of the year. ...

The 207,000 jobs added in July indicated the fastest hiring pace since April. Coming on top of revisions to previous estimates of employment gains in May and June that added another 42,000 jobs, average job growth this year was bumped up to 191,000 a month, sufficient to absorb the expansion of the labor force and reduce the slack in the job market.

Job growth ranged widely in July. The retail sector added 50,000 positions in July. Hotels and restaurants added 30,000 jobs. Employment in health care rose by 29,000. In an unexpected sign of increased job market stability, employment in temporary help agencies declined, indicating that employers might be relying less on temporary employees and hiring more workers full time. ...

Average hourly wages of production and nonmanagement workers rose nearly 0.4 percent, the fastest rate since July of last year. And the index of the aggregate amount of hours worked in the economy increased by about 2 percent.

In a particularly encouraging sign, the share of the total population that is working inched up 0.1 percent, to 62.8 percent, the highest percentage since October 2002. Gains filtered through to groups that have had a more difficult time in the labor market over the last few years. Unemployment among blacks declined 0.8 percent, to 9.5 percent, and the Hispanic unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent, from 5.8 percent in June.

So we have a real growth in income that has accelerated faster than any time since last July. Unemployment dropped for minority workers across the board, and Hispanic unemployment now almost equates to overall unemployment. Jobs have transitioned from temporary workers to permanent employment. Total employment has hit the highest percentage of the population in three years.

I can see why that depresses Pinch's crew.

The editorial saves its best for last. In a tortured explanation of its depression, the Times lays out the doomsday scenario haunting its nightmares:

As the housing market cooled, high oil prices would probably impose an ever greater toll on hiring and spending. Thus far, the economic drag of higher energy costs has been somewhat offset by the economic boost from appreciating real estate values. But if oil prices stayed high or went higher while real estate prices leveled off or dropped, employers and workers, and the consumers on whom they depend, would all feel the squeeze.

If high oil prices go higher, it will increase the economic model for new exploration, resulting in more oil resources and a stabilization of oil prices. In fact, we're approaching that point now. And in any economy, regardless of policies, when costs get out of hand and real assets undergo significant degredation, it won't be pleasant for workers, shareholders, owners, or anyone else. This isn't economic analysis; it's mindless scaremongering.

The Times just can't celebate good news, not as long as Republicans remain in charge. That is what has the Gray Lady crying the blues.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 6, 2005 9:42 AM

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