Monday, May 06, 2013

When a recovery is not a recovery and a boom is not a boom

Here's a short and sweet analysis of the April jobs report that generated a slew of stupidly bright happy headlines last week.  Here's the key statement... which you can basically repeat to one degree or another on any given month.
In general, workers are not doing well. The jobs being created are mostly of poor quality. 19.5% of them are part time. Weekly hours and wages declined last month. And the BLS continues to underestimate the number of those without jobs by between 9 to 9.5 million.
Here, meanwhile, is an article from this week's Louisiana Weekly looking at a federally funded jobs training program associated with the ongoing work to expand streetcar service in New Orleans. The article raises some questions about the cost and structure of this particular program.  But the more important item to note in big picture terms is this.
In data released in late April, New Orleans’ unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, was six percent in March, below the national average of 7.6 percent. But that masks a persistently high poverty rate that points to a need for job training. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25.7 percent of people in Orleans Parish lived below the poverty level from 2007 to 2011, well above the national average of 14.3 percent.
Every day we are reminded somewhere in our often breathless local press of the presumed robustness of the "trend-bucking" entrepreneur-driven economic boomtimes we're currently enjoying here in New Orleans.  While it's fair to say that some people are making money here right now, a far larger number are seeing the same stagnated prospects weighted against a steadily rising cost-of-living. In other words, the best of times are also the worst.

Furthermore it's worth pointing out just how much what growth we have experienced in New Orleans has been spurred directly by federal investment stemming either from post-Katrina rebuilding initiatives or from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  The streetcar expansion is a good example of both the benefits of federal investment as well as the less than optimal scale and efficacy of its application.

Sooner or later (sooner than later) this money is going to run out.  When that happens, we'll probably run out of articles about how we're all being lifted up by the "entrepreneurial spirit" as well.

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