Job creation in the United States last month, as reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, was somewhere between lackluster and feeble.
The latest report said 169,000 jobs were created in August, fewer than the 180,000 anticipated by some optimists. The bureau also adjusted June and July jobs figures downward, showing that 74,000 fewer jobs were created in those months than was previously reported.
The August unemployment rate dropped a notch, from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent, but that was the result of people leaving the work force. Labor force participation in America has dropped to 63.2 percent, the lowest rate since 1978.
It isn’t surprising that government inactivity in Washington is a prominent contributor to the depressed job market. Some members of Congress promise a “whale of a fight” on the budget — a problem that, if unresolved by Sept. 30, could lead to a shutdown of the government.
Federal agencies have operated for much of this year under the spending limits of the sequester, leading to a drop in government jobs that was reflected in the employment report. Sharp lines are drawn between Democrats and Republicans, and between Republicans in the Senate and the House, on raising the national debt limit, an issue that must be addressed by mid-October if the government is to pay its debts.
The Federal Reserve Board will meet this month to decide whether to end “quantitative easing,” the practice that has put $85 billion in newly printed money in the hands of banks every month for years. This is another shaky plank in America’s economic picture that contributes to the mediocre job situation.
President Obama and Congress continue to wrangle without success over more-complex problems of fixing the economy, including closing the gap between America’s rich and poor.
So it is no surprise that job creation lags. Why would companies enlarge their work forces while the federal government creates uncertainty?