Daily Bread for 6.2.23: The May Jobs Report (and How to Think About These Big National Numbers)

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will see afternoon clouds and scattered thundershowers with a high of 88. Sunrise is 5:18 AM and sunset 8:27 PM for 15h 09m 31s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 96.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1924, President Coolidge signs the Indian Citizenship Act into law, granting citizenship to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States.

The national May 2023 jobs numbers are now out, and they show impressive job gains. There is, however, a need to place big national gains in context.

First, the numbers, as Sydney Ember reports U.S. employers added 339,000 jobs in May:

Job growth jumped in May, reaffirming the labor market’s vigor despite a swirl of economic headwinds.

U.S. employers added 339,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said on Friday, an increase from a revised total of 294,000 in April.

The strong figures emerged from a survey of employers. A separate component of the report, based on a survey of households, yielded a somewhat dissonant picture.

That data showed a rise in the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent, from 3.4 percent, and a decrease of 310,000 in the number of people employed, as participation in the labor force was little changed.

Second, an observation from Joe Rennison about the national outlook:

The numbers showed conflicting signals — with an uptick in the unemployment rate alongside a sharp uptick in the number of new jobs — taken as a sign that people are returning to the labor market as the economy softens. That’s being read by the [stock] market as enough to keep the Fed from raising interest rates in June while still pointing to a resilient labor market.

Third, locally (or in many small Midwestern towns) a call for jobs, jobs, jobs doesn’t describe the needs these communities now have. Places like Whitewater, Wisconsin do not have large numbers of unemployed residents waiting for work. We are not in the Great Depression in Whitewater; we are living through the lingering effects of the Great Recession.  

(There are two quick measures of a local official’s or resident’s economic understanding. If he thinks we have an unemployment problem, then he’s wrong to the bone. Individuals may be looking for work, but the community does not have large numbers of unemployed workers. If he thinks that we are in conventional economic times, and does not grasp that all accurate economic analyses depend on understanding that the Great Recession still lingers in Whitewater socio-economically, then he is wrong below the surface. That’s still wrong, however. What’s left of Old Whitewater never understood the Great Recession as a dark transformational moment in this city, and that’s why one rightly describes Old Whitewater as ‘what’s left of.’)

Economic public policy, and there will always been some efforts at economic intervention from state and local officials in the city’s private economy, should begin with grasping that our problems are socio-economic, where the socio, so to speak, is more complex and difficult to heal than a simpler effort at jobs-creation. 

Fundamentally, government in our community — city, public school district, or public university — cannot heal what ails Whitewater. It’s private action that must play that curative role. See Waiting for Whitewater’s Dorothy Day, Something Transcendent, and in the MeantimeAn Oasis Strategyand The Community Space

Japan’s over-80s football league is where older people tackle ideas about ageing:

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