One cheer is due for May job figures

No one should break out the champagne or start partying like it’s 1999. The U.S. economy is still in a deep recession, a far cry from the heady tech-boom days of a decade ago, or even the economy of two years ago.

That was underscored by the unemployment numbers released Friday by the Department of Labor. Nationally, unemployment rose to 9.4 percent in May, the first time it has topped 9 percent since 1983.

The most recent numbers available for Grand Junction are from April, when the unemployment rate stood at 8.2 percent.

But the Labor Department figures weren’t all gloomy. Most importantly, the agency said the country lost a net of 345,000 jobs in May. Economists had been expecting a loss of as many as 525,000 jobs, and the May figure is less than half the number of jobs lost in January, the worst month so far in this recession.

When a smaller-than-anticipated net job loss is news worth celebrating, it’s clear the economy is in poor shape. Furthermore, a one-month drop in the number of jobs lost is hardly proof that the economy is turning around.

But economists have been saying for months that unemployment would get worse, even as other economic indicators improve. The job market would be the last of the key economic indicators to recover from the recession, they said. And there are other signs of improvement: auto sales better than expected for May, home sales on the upswing and
improved consumer confidence.

If the May job-loss figures prove to be the start of a trend, and not a one-month anomaly, then it will indeed be worthy of offering a few additional cheers.


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