Podcast: The February Employment Report and What It Means for the Economy

March 5, 2010

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I’m Keri Fulton and I’m here with Chad Stone, the Center’s Chief Economist, to discuss the jobs report for February.

 1. Chad, what does February’s employment report show? And did last month’s historic snow storms affect the rate of job losses?

There probably was some impact from the snow on hiring and the numbers of hours that people worked, but the Labor Department noted that it really couldn’t quantify the impact. Whatever the weather impact was, February’s employment report shows that job losses continued at a moderate pace and unemployment remained unchanged at 9.7 percent in February. That’s a lot like what we saw in January.

2. What else do the numbers reveal about the state of the economy?

The numbers tell us that we still have a very long way to go to erase the huge jobs deficit that remains the legacy of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression and even farther to go to get back to full employment.

3. How confident are forecasters about the economic recovery?

Forecasters believe that a recovery started last summer, but they are concerned that it will slow later in the year and could stall entirely without additional fiscal stimulus. The Recovery Act has worked -- significantly boosting economic growth and employment compared with what would have happened without it. For example, over the past four months we’ve lost an average of just 27,000 jobs a month. Over those same four months a year ago, before the Recovery Act, we were losing 720,000 jobs a month. But the Recovery Act will be winding down soon and there are vital steps Congress needs to take now in order to strengthen the recovery.

4. What are some of the steps that Congress should take?

There are two measures that should be at the top of the list as policymakers craft a jobs package.

· First, it’s vital for Congress to extend the Recovery Act measures providing extra weeks of unemployment insurance and subsidized COBRA health insurance coverage for unemployed workers. Regular unemployment benefits typically run out after 26 weeks, and 40 percent of the unemployed have been looking for work for 27 weeks or more.

· Second, Congress needs to extend fiscal relief for cash-strapped states. This would relieve pressure on states to cut programs or raise taxes – actions that are real job-killers.

Thanks for joining me, Chad.

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