Thursday, February 11, 2021

The American Rescue Plan Must Pass

 Popular Economics Weekly

The number of job openings was little changed at 6.6 million on the last business day of December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday. Job growth slowed in January with just 49,000 net payroll jobs created, which is why even Fed Chair Janet Yellen maintains the American Rescue Plan currently in debate must pass.

Janet Yellen said on Sunday the country was still in a “deep hole” with millions of lost jobs, but that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan could generate enough growth to restore full employment by next year.

“There’s absolutely no reason why we should suffer through a long, slow recovery,” she said.

Otherwise, the Congressional Budget Office projects the unemployment rate could remain elevated for years to come and take until 2025 to get unemployment back to 4 percent, in a recent CBO analysis done on the effects of raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. The jobless rate stood at a half-century low of 3.9 percent a year ago before the pandemic.

Barron’s reports retailers, warehousing, construction, durable-goods manufacturing, and healthcare lost a combined 110,000 jobs in January—all for the first time since last April.

The above graph shows job openings (yellow line), hires (dark blue), Layoff, Discharges and other (red column), and Quits (light blue column) from the JOLTS. The sharp spike in red columns showed how severe were last year’s job losses, with 20 million jobs lost last April and May 2020. Layoffs and Discharges were back down the 5.5 million in January.

In December, the number of hires decreased to 5.5 million (-396,000), per the BLS. Hires decreased in accommodation and food services (-221,000); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-133,000); and arts, entertainment, and recreation (-82,000). Hires increased in retail trade (+94,000).

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index also declined in January to 95.0, down 0.9 from December and three points below the 47-year average of 98. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months declined seven points to a net negative 23%, the lowest level since November 2013, said the report.

Small business owners are just as excited as consumers in seeing more economic aid from the congress, in part because a separate survey from the NFIB showed a third of small businesses reported in January that they had vacancies they could not fill, with 28% of those for skilled workers.

“As Congress debates another stimulus package, small employers welcome any additional relief that will provide a powerful fiscal boost as their expectations for the future are uncertain,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dictate how small businesses operate and owners are worried about future business conditions and sales.”

There is some concern that it could be too much aid on top of the recently passed $900 trillion aid package. But how else do we get the 10 million that lost their jobs back to work that want to work? There is an additional 4 million that have stopped looking for work.

The task at hand must bring back a US and world economy under attack by an enemy that has inflicted far more casualties than any war.

Harlan Green © 2020

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