Good news beneath headlines

Filed under: Opinion,Print | Tags:, ,

We usually try to keep our focus on the local and state economy, realizing that the Colorado Springs business community has abundant sources to keep up with what’s happening at the national level.

But occasionally we run across stories that clearly are worth sharing, if only because many local readers might overlook them in the massive everyday glut of information that bombards us from every direction.

This particular Associated Press story came out of Washington, by national economic writer Josh Boak. He begins by acknowledging that the March jobs report last week didn’t create much of a broad-based stir, with 192,000 new jobs nationally and an unchanged 6.7 percent unemployment rate. The new jobs number fell short of what even optimistic experts had been predicting.

The percentage with jobs rose to 58.9 percent, the best number since August 2009.

Boak, however, looked underneath those headlines and checked out other related data. He came up with five conclusions that, in his view, could be harbingers of “stronger job growth” in the months ahead on the national level. Following is a quick review of those conclusions, which appear to be devoid of bias, political or otherwise.

• Job growth vs. population growth: During the recovery, America had been adding people at a faster pace than adding jobs. Just in 2012, Boak notes, the 2.4 million new jobs nationally paled in comparison to the working-age population growing by 3.8 million, with similar numbers apparently the case in 2013. Put another way, the percentage of Americans with jobs had ended 2012 and 2013 at 58.6 percent, compared to 63 percent pre-recession in 2007. But in March, the 12-month number of new hires (since March 2013) was “slightly more” than the population increase, and the percentage with jobs rose to 58.9 percent, the best number since August 2009.

• Prime-age workers are finding more jobs. During and after the recession, the number of adults aged 25 to 54 with jobs dropped from 80 percent to 74.8 percent in late 2010. But in March that number stood at 76.7 percent, which Boak discovered was the best since February 2009.

• We’ve escaped winter. It’s been a rough few months across most of the country, but especially in the heavily populated north and on the East Coast. Widespread airline disruptions, which have produced the worst airport numbers in Colorado Springs since before the new terminal opened in the early 1990s, are just one example. Yet, while many economists feared the awful weather would hamper hiring numbers, the new-job numbers for January and February have been revised upward by a total of 37,000. Also, car sales nationally were up 6 percent in March.

• Fewer pink slips. Layoffs are down across the country, as shown most directly on new applications for unemployment benefits. That monthly number went down by 71,000 people in March.

• Longer hours. Statistics show that the average person’s workweek increased from 34.3 hours in February to 34.5 hours in March, which Boak calculates to hourly workers taking home an average of about $17 more a week than 12 months ago. If that trend continues, it should translate into more discretionary spending, as evidenced by the rise in car sales.

It’s hard to say just how much this means to the Colorado Springs region. But if the subtle signs look that encouraging on a national level, we can only hope for more good news locally in months to come.