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We Need Strong Policy Steps to Maintain Momentum in the Labor Market

We Need Strong Policy Steps to Maintain Momentum in the Labor Market

David Madland examines January’s positive jobs numbers and outlines the actions Congress must take to ensure a full recovery that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

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The nation’s economy is improving. The employment figures released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, show that 243,000 jobs were added in January and unemployment dropped to 8.3 percent. The recovery plan the Obama administration installed the day it took office has now produced 23 straight months of private-sector job growth.

But we can’t afford to be complacent, and we can’t turn back to the policies that got us into this mess. Job growth is still too slow to make up for jobs lost in the Great Recession anytime soon, and even the modest momentum we have could be lost if government policies go in the wrong direction or Europe’s banking crisis spills over to the United States.

Moreover, there are nagging problems in the labor market that must be dealt with. Declines in public-sector employment continue to cancel out some employment gains in the private sector; the unemployment rates for young people, African Americans, and Hispanics remain at especially elevated levels; and long-term unemployment is at almost record highs.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project