Today’s jobs report — this one really hurts

As regular readers know, I’ve been hitting a lot of the same cautionary notes for several years in my City Talk columns in the Savannah Morning News. I just haven’t been able to see where growth is going to come from in America — the kind of growth that will produce jobs to eventually make up for the millions lost from 2007 to 2009.

While I get tired of the whole “Savannah is different” argument (our jobs numbers are better than the state as a whole but generally a little worse than the nation as a whole), we did at least seem to have a few solid prospects for growth, including port activity, Gulfstream, regional medical facilities, and tourism. Of course, all of those industries — excepting the medical field — were slammed in the recession, but they have all recovered pretty well, certainly better than I thought they would.

Still, we’ve seen job growth stagnate locally and statewide, and now the sluggish job growth nationally has ground to a halt, at least in the month of August as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: August Employment Report: 0 Jobs (unchanged), 9.1% Unemployment Rate

Don’t be fooled by the unchanged unemployment rate. With the population increasing and no jobs added, the only way to keep that rate the same is for thousands more Americans to leave the labor force.

Here’s a graph from Calculated Risk comparing job losses and recoveries in post-WW2 recessions. I can’t get today’s updated graph to load, but there’s obviously little change from last month: I’ve updated this with CR’s graph from today:

I’m increasingly struck by how the current slow jobs recovery mirrors the weak recovery after the 2001 recession. Of course, that recession was much shallower than the 2007 one, so the slow employment recovery wasn’t much emphasized.

This is just grim stuff, and we need to try some new things. I’m increasingly a fan of pushing all mortgage holders who are current on their payments, regardless of their overall financial position or how far underwater they are, to be allowed to refinance at today’s very low interest rates. I’m sure there would be some blowback from a bold move like that, but it’s worth a shot. If we don’t allow the federal government to try some bold policy measures, we’re just looking at the perpetuation of what we have right now. And that’s a pretty dark vision.