Why the Jobs Report Means Diddly

The monthly ritual known as the jobs report made its appearance last week, followed metronomically by the monthly ritual of commentary and political reaction to the jobs report. It was a good report, as they go, with “ better-than-expected” job creation, more workers returning to look for work (hence a slightly higher unemployment rate of 5.7 percent) and major upward revisions to reported job creation in November and December of 2014.

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Where Was Obama When the Middle Class Needed Him?

Six long years into presidency, Barack Obama has finally made the middle-class an explicit priority— placing “middle-class economics,” as he called it repeatedly in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, front and center on his agenda. But what the president is asking for may be too little and it’s arriving far too late. While his proposals are sensible— lowering the tax burden on middle-class families and expanding access to education, job training and retirement, in part by closing loopholes and raising taxes on capital gains—very few of them have much chance of passing.

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Deflating Expectations

n a Reuters poll out this week, most economists say they are expecting more robust inflation this year, to the tune of 2 percent. The poll accurately reflects the plethora of emails from research firms in my inbox—a slowly building chorus predicting rising prices along with an uptick in overall economic activity.

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How Counting the Unemployed Started as a Progressive Reform

In an excerpt from his book, reprinted here by permission of Simon & Schuster, Karabell traces how employment data collection originated as a progressive antidote to economic inequality. But even the reformists who developed those statistics, Karabell notes, were wary of the “mania for statistics.”

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25 for 25: Leave the Big Numbers to Janet Yellen

There's a small problem with numbers we use to measure the economy. You know, those numbers you hear on Marketplace every day. "One simple number is never going to capture simple reality," says Zachary Karabell, historian and economist and author of "The Leading Indicators: A short history of the numbers that rule our world."

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The Youth Unemployment Crisis Might Not Be a Crisis

There’s no doubting that worldwide, kids are out of work. In the United States alone, the unemployment rate for 15 to 24-year-olds is about 16 percent, nearly twice the national average. In parts of Europe, the figures are much worse, with a whopping 56 percent youth unemployment rate in Spain alone — representing about 900,000 people. But do these high numbers represent a global labor market crisis that imperils future growth, as the headlines warn? Maybe not. Maybe instead, they’re evidence of a generation of college graduates determined not to settle, which bodes well for our future.

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Who's Afraid of Chained CPI?

As the fiscal cliff talks evolve and devolve, the latest spat has been whether the arc of federal spending should be curtailed by changing the way that we assess costs. The proposal from the White House is to switch the way cost-of-living adjustments are made for Social Security benefits. Rather than pegging those to the Consumer Price Index as currently calculated, these would be pegged to a "chain-weighted" Consumer Price Index, which would save as much as $125 billion in additional benefits over the next decade.

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The Recession Is Over — and It Isn’t

With Wall Street — and the Federal Reserve — in a headlong rush to declare the recession over, the economic data has indicated that the simple binary recession/no recession framework obscures more than it reveals. Yes, defined purely in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the recession looks to be winding down, with strong indications that GDP is about to turn positive after a long and painful swoon.

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How Many People are Unemployed? No One Knows

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did what it does every month and released its employment figures. These showed that 51,000 people lost their jobs this month, and that the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7%, which is a full percentage point higher than it was a year ago. Unsurprisingly, there were losses in both housing-related construction jobs and financial service industry jobs, as well as another 35,000 jobs eliminated in manufacturing. There was also a spike in unemployment for teenagers, now at 20%, whereas the unemployment rate for the general population is actually a not-so-dramatically bad 5.0%.

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