Laboring Toward Recovery

The latest news about job figures is bad news that is better than expected, writes David Madland. The good news is the Recovery Act is working.

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The U.S. economy shed 247,000 jobs in July. That’s the bad news. The good news is the number of jobs lost was the fewest in 11 months, and the unemployment rate fell slightly—the first decline in 15 months—providing workers with some needed, relatively good news.

The jobs numbers released today by the Department of Labor show the economy is still in very bad shape, but the report of slowing job losses, when combined with last week’s news of a better-than-expected economic decline of only 1 percent in the second quarter of the year indicates that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is beginning to have a positive impact. The road ahead is still long and steep, but the recent news should put some spring in workers’ steps as they go about their jobs or continue to look for work.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent in July, down from 9.5 percent in June, according to the Department of Labor report. Unemployment decreased for most demographic groups, including men and women, whites and blacks, and across all education levels. Hispanic unemployment increased by 0.1 percent, but is down 0.4 percent from two months ago. We cannot make definitive statements based on one-month changes, but this provides some optimism that the unemployment picture will improve in the months to come.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project