The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

September jobs report: Cause for optimism?

Jobs are not easy to come by in this economy, but at least a second recession now seems unlikely.
Jobs are not easy to come by in this economy, but at least a second recession now seems unlikely.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The BLS released the preliminary September employment numbers this morning. Unlike last month, when the economy added an adjusted 57,000 private-sector jobs, this month the economy managed 103,000. 

This was a lot better than some forecasters had predicted (the revised August numbers, +57,000 versus the Big Zee-Roh, were also welcome). Before today, I had seen September numbers ranging from zero to 130,000. The ADP report, a much-watched measure that comes out before the government total, anticipated 91,000 — the same number it anticipated last month — so the fact that we came in well above that is a cautiously positive sign.

The BLS report should quash speculation that we are heading for a double-dip recession, or that we're in some kind of quasi-recession right now. Felix Salmon doesn't think so — he's making more of a long-term malaise argument — but if we can avoid some kind of debt cataclysm in the Eurozone, then we may be able to turn the ocean liner at this point.

This isn't to say that the sun is coming out. The economy is adding jobs and growing, although at a rate that's far too slow to bring unemployment down from its current national level of 9.1 percent. (We'd need GDP growth at 4-5 percent for that, and to add 350,000-400,00 each month.)

So far, the markets are responding in mixed fashion. The Dow is up slightly, but the S&P is down. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up over 2 percent, however, a sign that investors may be recovering some confidence in the economy's momentum.

This is all cold comfort to the millions of American who are unemployed — or who have been unemployed for more than six months and are on the verge of dropping out of the job market altogether. Still, given that October has often been a month when big bad things happen to the economy, the slightly higher-than-expected job number is a good sign. 

In California, unfortunately, there's less reason for optimism. Our state unemployment rate will probably stay at 12 percent. In Los Angeles County, it's unlikely to change from 12.4 percent. Inland, it's worse. The state and the region need job creation, and they need it in a hurry.

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images