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Sprinkles from the Left

Commentators on the Left contend the jobs report should be viewed with patience, arguing that no major policy changes should be put in place.

  • Some appear to be split over the necessity of the additional $300 weekly federal jobless benefit. Some argue it should remain in place as a safety net for workers throughout the pandemic, while others say it should be converted into a job-finding bonus program now that a majority of U.S. adults are vaccinated.

“The labor force actually grew by 430,000, more than in March, which is not what you’d expect if workers were staying at home—the unemployment grew because more people were looking for jobs. At the same time, the leisure and hospitality industry, the loudest complainer about labor shortages, actually added more jobs compared with March, adding 331,000 new workers compared with 206,000 the month before. It was other sectors where hiring was shockingly low…

There were also big employment declines among grocery stores as well as courier and messenger services, suggesting that part of the issue is that industries that bulked up during the pandemic are now shrinking back down to normal… [there’d] be no serious harm if policymakers just waited another month to see if hiring bounces back in May before making any rash decisions about curtailing unemployment benefits.”

Jordan Weissmann, Slate

“In a sense, April’s numbers should be unsurprising, since there are good reasons the boom may be taking a while to get off the ground. There are supply chain problems hindering manufacturing, like the availability of semiconductors — but that will eventually be worked out. With many schools still not fully open, child care challenges are delaying workers from accepting jobs — but that too will likely be far less of a problem come September when the new school year begins…

It’s true that some people getting unemployment benefits may wait for a position that suits their qualifications and goals rather than taking the first available job. But in the long run, that’s a good thing. If I’m an unemployed engineer, it’s better for me and the whole economy if I wait and get an engineering job rather than work at Arby’s.”

Paul Waldman, Washington Post

“The pandemic recession was orders of magnitude more awful than the Great Recession. Just check out the unadjusted April jobs data. Most years, employers hire about 1 million people in April. They did the same thing this April. But in 2020, they laid off nearly 20 million. That’s right: 20 million. Roughly a decade’s worth of job growth gone in a month. Imagine what such a hole in the fabric of space-time-economics might do to seasonal adjustments.

Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is run by very smart people who have been thinking about that already. They’ve been diving into the numbers every month and “manually” trying to tweak the seasonals to account for last year’s freakish numbers.

So you can’t say seasonal adjustments are having exactly the same effect as after the Great Recession. If that were the case, then you might expect April jobs numbers to look far better than forecasts. Instead, they did the opposite: A 1 million-job unadjusted gain, roughly matching Wall Street hopes, got about 800,000 jobs smaller.

The BLS data-massagers are not superheroes, and these are extraordinarily weird times. Could they have overdone their “manual” seasonal adjustments?

These numbers will be revised for months and maybe years to come. Until we get much more clarity on how all these working parts interact, the very boring short answer seems to be: ‘Shrug, pandemic.’ Hopefully it at least won’t take us years to sort it all out this time.”

Mark Gongloff, Bloomberg Opinion

Sprinkles from the Right

Commentators on the Right contend the low employment numbers are a result of the additional $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit, which they say explains the current levels of high unemployment and high demand for labor.

  • Many argue lawmakers should put an end to additional federal jobless benefits since the employment situation is much different today than when the program was first implemented.

“The Keynesians who now run U.S. policy, at the Treasury and Federal Reserve, have been using their usual demand-side playbook. Bathe the country in government cash, keep interest rates at zero, and the resulting rise in consumer demand will drive everything…

Employers across the country have been complaining for months that the federal $300 weekly jobless bonus has made it difficult to hire. Most lower-income workers can make more sitting on the couch. It’s notable that half of the new labor market entrants last month were teens, most of whom don’t qualify for jobless benefits because of their short or nonexistent employment histories…

The policy lesson is to ease government constraints on supply. That means repealing the federal bonus not to work. And it should mean withdrawing the Biden tax increases that are a frontal attack on investment and supply. There is no need for more Keynesian stimulus, which has become part of the problem.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The consensus among economists is that high unemployment benefits were not producing high unemployment rates earlier in the pandemic, when there were so few jobs available, health concerns were more acute, and there was greater uncertainty about when the economy would improve.

Workers who found themselves in that precarious situation would jump at any employment opportunity they could find, even if it paid less than unemployment benefits, the thinking went.

The situation today is much different.

Vaccinations and falling cases and deaths should ameliorate many of the health concerns people have about returning to work. A wealth of job opportunities also means people receiving unemployment benefits now won’t automatically take whatever work they can find. Instead, they can afford to hold out for higher wages or a job that’s a better fit for them…

More industries operating with fewer restrictions would create not just more job openings, but a greater variety of jobs. So would cutting current levels of unemployment benefits.”

Christian Britschgi, Reason

“We are heartened that Montana and South Carolina have announced plans to cut off the enhanced unemployment benefits, and hope that other states follow. But as long as Biden’s federal policy remains on the books, it will hold back the labor market.

One other argument that people have made about the bad jobs numbers is that the closures of schools and child-care centers are squeezing working parents. But this problem is a direct result of the lockdown policies that Biden and his fellow Democrats are promoting well past their reasonable expiration dates. Biden’s CDC has even allowed teachers’ unions to manipulate guidance on school reopenings to make it harder to bring children back for full-time and in-person instruction.

The disappointing jobs numbers are not an argument for more government largesse. Rather, governing as though we were in a perpetual emergency risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Editorial Board, National Review