Job Figures Give Obama 'Head of Steam,' Says NYT Reporter Who Once Saw Good Side of Job Loss

Reporter Shaila Dewan saw a “head of steam,” enough “to cheer President Obama as he enters an election year,” in Labor Department figures released Friday morning showing the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 8.7% to 8.5%: “Economy Gains Steam as 200,000 New Jobs Added.” Does this mean Dewan will no longer ask, as she did in a 2009 story, "Weren't we working too much, anyway?"

The United States added a robust 200,000 new jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, in a sign that the long-awaited economic recovery has finally built up a head of steam.

The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December, from a revised 8.7 percent in November, the government said. The Labor Department revised the number of new jobs added in November to 100,000, from 120,000.

The employment report built on a flurry of heartening economic news in December, when consumer confidence rose, manufacturing came in strong and small businesses showed signs of life. It was the sixth consecutive month that the economy added at least 100,000 jobs -- not enough to restore employment to pre-recession levels, but enough, perhaps, to cheer President Obama as he enters an election year.

Dewan included caveats, but indirectly suggested budget-cutting Republicans in Congress might be responsible for a fall back into recession.


Lowering the unemployment rate significantly would require many more jobs a month than the economy has been adding. And there are several factors that could weigh down what momentum there is.

Congress may yet decline to continue extensions of the payroll tax break and unemployment benefits that have given families a lift and boosted spending. Money, in the form of loans, is still hard to come by. Home values continue to drop. And though the most recent numbers make it appear the United States is shrugging off the troubles in the euro zone, a severe slowdown there or, worse, a catastrophic financial collapse, is still a threat.

Ironically, back in March 2009, when the jobless rate was roughly the same, Dewan suggested cutting employment hours might not be so bad: “Furloughs might work as a kind of recalibration -- a market correction, if you will -- of that age-old imbalance. Those who can afford them might actually come to like them....Setting aside, for a moment, acute financial worries, furloughs might also help answer larger questions underlying the economic crisis: What will America look like when it is over? Will we resume being a nation of spenders instead of savers? Will we be content with smaller houses and fewer things? Weren't we working too much, anyway?”

Now that improving job numbers benefit Obama, Times talk of the bright side of underemployment will probably cease. 

Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center . Read more: http://archive.newsbusters.org/bios/clay-waters.html#ixzz3CdgxLFgQ