Latest Jobs Report: Best in Three Years Overall, But Some Bad News for Women

The new national jobs report is out, and overall the news is good: the unemployment rate has dropped slightly to 8.9% -- the lowest rate since April 2009 -- while the economy created some 192,000 new jobs -- the best seasonally-adjusted gain since March 2007. As the Maddow blog notes, this means that "[o]ver the past three months, things have gotten better, faster, than at any time in more than a quarter century."

However, that doesn't mean things are all sunshine and roses. The Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that the latest job growth levels are still "only slightly faster than the 90,000 rate needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor force." CEPR:

Most of the job growth is concentrated in health care, employment services, and durable goods manufacturing. These three sectors averaged 24,000, 28,000, and 35,000 new jobs per month, respectively, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the job growth since November. While the employment services sector is often viewed as a harbinger of future job growth, it is worth noting that this sector added 34,000 jobs per month in the same months last year.

Other sectors are notable for their weakness. Retail trade added just 6,000 jobs on average for the last three months, while restaurant employment rose by an average of less than 9,000. On the plus side, construction has added an average of 2,000 jobs per month, suggesting that employment in the sector has reached bottom. State and local governments shed an average of 21,000 jobs. This rate of job loss is likely to accelerate and will be a serious drag on an already weak labor market.

The New York Times adds that "[f]ederal employment was flat, but federal employees may also be at risk of significant layoffs, if Republican leaders in Congress get the budget cuts they have been pushing for. Economists at Goldman Sachs and elsewhere have warned that such budget cuts could ripple through the rest of the economy and lead to layoffs in the private sector."

Indeed, the GOP, despite its best efforts to label itself the party of "jobs jobs jobs," can't lay claim to this good job and unemployment level news -- Republicans have not yet achieved any of the sweeping budget cuts they campaigned on, and, as the Times notes above, their agenda would actually hurtjob growth.

Another group that didn't make out well in the job report is women, who did not see the gains in unemployment rates that men did. Again, CEPR:

The unemployment rate for men over age 20 fell from 10.0 percent in February of last year to 8.7 percent last month. The employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio has risen by 0.4 percentage points over this period. By contrast, the unemployment rate for women over age 20 stayed constant at 8.0 percent over the last year. Their EPOP actually fell by 0.6 percentage points over this period. The EPOP for men is still down by 6.1 percentage points from its pre-recession peak and 7.4 percentage points from its peak in 2000. For women, the February EPOP is 3.3 percentage points below the pre-recession peak and 3.6 percentage points below the 2000 peak.

Center for American Progress economist Heather Boushey tweeted about the phenomenon today, pointing out that "The recovery is affecting male and female workers differently," with "224,000 women [having] dropped out of the labor force vs. 227,000 adult men [having] joined the labor force in the past year." She added, "the share of adult women with a job fell to 55.2 percent in February, a low not previously seen since 1993."

As journalist Bryce Covert noted astutely in The Nation yesterday, it's time we got ready for the "womancession," especially since the anti-union campaign being pushed by Scott Walker and his supporters will disproportionately affect women in the coming years.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at March 4, 2011, 5:51am

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