Chris Low: February job numbers show some progress

A job seeker carries a worn briefcase at the Green Jobs and Entrepeneurship Fair in Berkeley, California.


BOB MOON: Let's go a little deeper into all this with Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial. Chris, no doubt this reflects improvement, but just how impressed should we be, do you think?

CHRIS LOW: Well, thanks Bob, I tell you what -- I think the most important thing to do, looking at this report, is to put it into the perspective of what happened in January. The weather, especially storms in the South East depressed hiring. When you look at the two months together, which as you see is an average private sector job growth of 135,000 -- unfortunately, about the same as the average last year.

MOON: So maybe not as impressive as it looks at first glance. We just heard Nancy tell us that even as businesses were hiring in the private sector, government cutbacks were taking jobs away -- is that going to create two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of drag?

LOW: Well, call it three-steps-forward, one-step-back. We lost 30,000 jobs at the state and local level. I expect we're going to see similar losses going forward. What's going on is that state and local governments assume the normal recovery in tax revenues. It's not happening because we don't have the kind of private sector job growth you would normally get in a recovery. So if we can in fact accelerate to faster job growth over the course of this year, that burden will lighten, but for now, those layoffs are the beginning of a trend I think that's going to last for a while.

MOON: Quickly -- do you see much change we'll have this report leading to Chairman Bernanke at the Federal Reserve considering tightening up its easy money policy?

LOW: I don't think so. You know, Bernanke himself said earlier this week, we lost 8.5 million jobs during the recession. Since the end of the recession we've only gained back about a million. For now, the Fed's going to do everything it can to encourage the strongest possible employment growth and of course, economic growth.

MOON: Economist Chris Low at FTN Financial, thanks.

LOW: You're welcome.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.


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