Positive job growth needs growth agenda

Payroll employment rose by 227,000 jobs in February with the unemployment rate remaining flat at 8.3 percent, according to the report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning. This growth is good yet so much is still uncertain.

The United States is still far from reaching the same level of employment it once had. In January 2008, nonfarm payroll employment stood at 138.0 million. That’s 5.3 million more jobs than exist today, more than four years later.

Despite the streak of employment gains, average job growth since the President took office is still negative at an average loss of 50,000 jobs per month. In other words, we’re not out of the hole yet.

Still, the announcement today is a very good sign and hopefully part of a continuing trend. Along with the gains this month, BLS revised estimates for December and January job growth, which were higher than previously reported.

The news on jobs, while positive recently, has been far too tepid. In particular, the broader measure of unemployment, which includes the underemployed and those that might still be interested in a job but not included in the unemployment rate, remains high at 14.9 percent. It is uncertain how many people who may have gone back to school, retired, or given up because of the job market, will reenter and search for work.

The labor force participation rate, which increased very slightly, remains at one of the lowest points in more than 25 years. While this is, in part, a demographic reality that has been materializing for the last decade, particular attention must be paid to the employment rates for recent college graduates and among older Americans who might stay in the labor force longer due to economic uncertainty.

To secure these gains and build momentum, Congress must work to pass corporate tax reform, eliminate harmful business regulations, and stabilize the federal debt. Pro-growth solutions will help bolster the weak recovery and keep the job momentum going.

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