The Great Recession, Jobs and the Deficit

As the Labor Dept report released today revises upward the number of estimated job losses incurred during the Great Recession, economist Paul Krugman warns that a politically motivated focus on short-term deficit reduction is dangerous, assuming the objectives of creating more jobs and slashing long-term future deficits.

Krugman says today that so grave is the crisis that:

[F]ear-mongering on the deficit may end up doing as much harm as the fear-mongering on weapons of mass destruction.

Let’s talk for a moment about budget reality. Contrary to what you often hear, the large deficit the federal government is running right now isn’t the result of runaway spending growth. Instead, well more than half of the deficit was caused by the ongoing economic crisis, which has led to a plunge in tax receipts, required federal bailouts of financial institutions, and been met — appropriately — with temporary measures to stimulate growth and support employment.

The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs.

Christopher S. Rugaber AP piece on the Labor Dept report is excerpted below:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Job losses during the Great Recession have been huge and they’re about to get bigger.

When the Labor Department releases the January unemployment report Friday, it will also update its estimate of jobs lost in the year that ended in March 2009. The number is expected to rise by roughly 800,000, raising the number of jobs shed during the recession to around 8 million.

The new data will help illustrate the scope of the jobs crisis. Analysts think the economy might generate 1 million to 2 million jobs this year. And they say it will take at least three to four years for the job market to return to anything like normal.

‘It’s going to take a long time to dig out of this hole,’ said Julia Coronado, senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas.

Wall Street economists expect the January report will show a tiny increase of 5,000 jobs. That would be only the second monthly gain since the recession began. But it probably wouldn’t be enough to hold down the unemployment rate, which is forecast to rise to 10.1 percent. That would match October’s 26-year high. And it would be the fourth-straight month of double-digit joblessness.

The Labor Department’s revisions on employment levels are done every year. They are based on unemployment insurance tax data that companies submit to states.

Jobs remain scarce even as the economy is recovering: Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s output, has risen for two straight quarters. GDP rose by 5.7 percent in the October-December quarter, the fastest pace in six years.

But hiring is still lagging. Many economists say businesses are reluctant to add workers because it’s not clear whether the recovery will continue once government stimulus measures, such as tax credits for home buyers, end.

The debate over health care reform and the scheduled expiration of some Bush administration tax cuts at the end of this year may also cause companies to restrain hiring, many economists said.

[Worth recalling are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s pathological and nihilistic policies that brought us here; Bush-Cheney in 2002 self consciously reversed the projected elimination of U.S. public debt, in favor of throwing the government into fiscal crisis.]


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