Part-timers, discouraged workers dominate jobs report
By Peter Morici
The Labor Department reported last week the economy created 169,000 jobs in August after adding 104,000 in July Unemployment fell to 7.3 percent, largely because 516,000 more adults are no longer employed or looking for work.
Businesses continued the shift toward contingent workers. In August, 123,000 more Americans reported working part-time. Since January, the economy has added 813,000 more part-time positions but only 35,000 full time jobs.
Obama Care's mandates for employer paid health insurance coverage encourage more part-time hiring. Also, driving this trend are the growing importance of services like retailing and hospitality, and rigidity and visceral anti-business campaigns of unions—such as those targeting McDonalds and Wal-Mart.
The jobs count may be up but for recent college graduates and middle-aged adults seeking positions the situation is grim. Adding in part-timers who want full-time employment and discouraged adults who have abandoned searching for jobs, the unemployment rate becomes 13.7 percent. This figure has fallen because more adults appear reconciled to permanent part-time status.
President Obama's policies and attitudes toward business carry some considerable burden of responsibility. Those have institutionalized a buyers' market for day labor and damned many recent college graduates to a lifetime of debt as they can't find jobs permitting them to pay off burdensome student loans. Obama Care makes hiring older workers a severe financial liability.
Even with more full time positions, the pace of jobs creation is well short of what is needed. About 360,000 jobs each month would lower unemployment to 6 percent, but that would require GDP growth in the range of 4 to 5 percent. Over the last four years, the pace has been a paltry 2.2 percent.
Stronger growth is possible. Four years into the Reagan recovery, after a deeper recession than Obama inherited, GDP was advancing at a 5.1 percent annual pace, and jobs creation was quite robust.
Near term, defense cutbacks President Obama extracted from Congress last fall have subtracted some $62 billion from federal purchases. An additional $42 billion in sequestration cuts, and $200 billion in higher taxes demanded by the president, are further reducing government and consumer spending in the second and third quarters.
Longer term, more rapid growth requires importing less and exporting more. Dealing with the $480 billion trade deficit requires drilling for more oil offshore and in Alaska, and substantively addressing China and Japan's undervalued currencies and other protectionist policies. Obama has flat out refused to even discuss proposals from liberal and conservative economists alike on these issues.
Essential is right sizing business regulations to make investing in new jobs less expensive. Regulatory protections are needed to protect the environment, consumers and financial stability but those must be delivered cost effectively to add genuine value.
Overall the president must cultivate a climate more receptive to domestic investment, instead of treating private-sector leaders as likely recidivists to a white collar prison for those guilty of environmental and other crimes against the people. The administration's anti-business regulatory policies and rhetoric are creating a crisis of confidence in the business community as surely as George Bush's neglect cultivated arrogant and tragic risk taking on Wall Street.
More jobs require trimming back on tax increases and spending cuts, and more realistic and less-ideological trade, energy and regulatory policies. These are words the White House and many on Capitol Hill simply do not want to hear.
Peter Morici, an economist and professor at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, is a widely published columnist.