Jobs situation boosts economic optimism

The number of job openings in the United States grew by 352,000 in February, to nearly 3.1 million, the largest increase in job growth since December 2004.

That’s just one of several indications that the jobs picture in this country is slowly improving from its low point following the recession that hit in 2008.

A bit of optimism is certainly in order, but we don’t want to paint too glowing a picture of our economic condition.

Mesa County’s unemployment rate remains well above the state and national averages.

Home sales, here and around the country, remain depressed and foreclosures are high.

And, according to some economists, real inflation — including the costs of gasoline and food — is closer to 10 percent versus the government-advertised rate of 2.1 percent.

Still, jobs have long been viewed as a lagging indicator of economic recovery. Job growth tends to occur later than other signs pointing to an economic turnaround.

In addition to the 3 million-plus job openings in February, the Labor Department reported that private, non-government payroll rose by 230,000 in March. Coupled with February’s private payroll numbers, it marked the strongest two-month gain since 2006.

Help wanted ads in The Daily Sentinel indicate a growing number of jobs are becoming available in the energy sector, here and in other parts of the country. Many require specialized skills.

Also, more people nationwide are voluntarily leaving their jobs, indicating they feel more confident about their ability to find new jobs, Bloomberg reported.

On top of that, retail sales rose in March for the ninth straight month. Higher food and gasoline prices account for a portion of that increase, but the improving job market is also making consumers more confident that they are able to handle more or larger purchases.

All of these indicators suggest that we are slowly, if erratically, climbing back from the depths of the Great Recession toward a more sustainable economy.

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