BY MARK JAMISON
On the first Friday of each month, economists, policymakers, and professionals in the finance industry wait for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to release the current jobs report. The BLS report, which quantifies unemployment in the U.S., is widely seen as one of the primary economic indicators. While some folks may judge the health of the economy in the wake of a recession by how quickly stock markets return to previous highs or by increases in corporate profits, those hit hardest by downturns are the unemployed, and they judge economic recovery by the availability of jobs.
As this paper from Brookings Institute discusses, the recoveries from the last three recessions have been largely jobless, that is, the economy did not start producing new jobs even as stock markets and corporate profits rebounded. The unemployment rate coming out of the current recession has dropped slowly, although a large part of that drop has been due to people leaving the labor force in frustration over not only the lack of jobs but also the lack of good jobs.