More Americans at work

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JUST when some folks were thinking that the US economy was slipping into inertia - characterized by slow growth and rising inflation - along comes the best report yet on the nation's employment front since the late 1970s. The civilian unemployment rate for April fell to 6.3 percent from 6.6 percent in March. That was the lowest jobless rate since December 1979, when unemployment stood at 6 percent. The flip side of all this? More jobs: Employment rose by 467,000 jobs in April. Over 111 million Americans are at work.

The Reagan administration, not surprisingly, was given a boost by the news, although - as some economists pointed out - there were some technical factors that might have made the results seem a tad better than they actually were. Still, despite quibbling about whether this person or that person should have been counted as ``employed,'' the increase was remarkable for an economy that has been expanding since 1983.

The unemployment rate is only a partial measure of the well-being of an economy. But for most Americans, it is the indicator that hits home. What the job statistics have been saying is that - for now at least, and despite all the talk about the US losing its entrepreneurial steam - the US continues to nurture a resilient economy. Unfortunately, many of the jobs are in low-paying service, rather than high-paying manufacturing, positions. Still, during the past decade the US created close to 20 million jobs.

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A final point seems warranted; one must not forget that 7.5 million people remain unemployed. That's more Americans than live in the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada combined. Many of those workers have seen their factories close out behind them. Retraining and resettlement programs are needed for these people. Their situation must not be overlooked during a time of general prosperity.

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