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Published: Tuesday, 6/15/2010

Mixed news on jobs

May's national employment figures presented a mixed picture that included some progress, but also prompted a feeling among some Americans that efforts to stimulate the economy aren't working.

The economy created 431,000 jobs, a positive indicator. The unemployment rate fell from 9.9 percent to 9.7 percent, another plus.

At the same time, it's worth noting that many of the new jobs - an estimated 411,000 - were created because of a U.S. Census drive. Those jobs, unfortunately, will disappear when the census is completed, within a matter of months.

A big standing question during times of high unemployment is how many people drop out of the job market from sheer discouragement. When people quit looking for work, they are no longer officially counted as unemployed, which can make the jobless rate look deceptively lower.

It is also hard to know how many are underemployed, working part-time when they would like to work full-time, or taking work that does not fully use their skills, to pay the bills. Statisticians also don't know how many recent graduates look at the job market, find it unpromising, and enroll in higher education, although perhaps with misgivings.

The stock market analyzed the jobless report and the speculation in Europe that Hungary might go the way of Greece - over a financial cliff - and stuck a wet finger in the air. It was enough to cause the Dow Jones industrial average to plunge temporarily.

A wise person should pay little attention to such emotional, one-day swings on Wall Street. They are no-more-reliable signs of the state of the economy than a double-digit Mud Hens win or loss.

For now, it's enough to focus on the positive job figures in the report. Temporary or not, they are jobs that employ people and pay the bills.

The people earning the money are putting it back into the economy, like water priming a pump. That is a net gain for America and nothing to be sniffed at, though much still clearly needs to be done for the 15 million unemployed.



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