Job market remains 'tepid at best'

Job seekers wait in line to fill out applications for employment during a job fair in San Francisco, Calif.

Jeremy Hobson: As we wait for tomorrow's
big monthly employment report from the government, let's talk jobs now with Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial, who is with us live from Chicago as she is every Thursday. Good morning.

Diane Swonk: Good morning.

Hobson: Well Diane, we take this morning's weekly jobless claims number, yesterday we got a couple of numbers. What do they tell you about the job market that we're in right now?

Swonk: Well the job market -- although we continue to generate jobs -- remains tepid at best. And in fact, tomorrow's number, that's printed by the payroll data, will be weaker even than what we saw earlier in the week because of the Verizon strike that was not accounted for in earlier data. And in fact, we'll be lucky to hit the 50,000 threshold on private sector jobs, which is nothing to pop champagne corks over.

Hobson: Nothing to pop champagne corks over. And next week, of course, we'll hear from President Obama who's going to be offering a new jobs proposal. What do you expect he'll be able to do to fix the jobs problem?

Swonk: Well if there was any easy way to fix it, it would already've been fixed. The bottom line is, what we're looking at is ways to sort of temper the pain that we're feeling. And allow, when we're treading water, to keep our head above water. Extended payrolls, extended unemployment insurance -- that doesn't generate a lot of jobs, but it keeps us from sinking through the water. We're not going to see much more than that, everything's on the margins, and unfortunately, we don't have a lot of wiggle room anymore.

Hobson: And of course, President Obama after yesterday's whole kerfuffle over the timing of his speech -- it looks like he may have a problem getting anything through the Republican Congress to deal with the jobs situation. And I want to ask you -- you look at that, and then you look at the Fed where we have sort of a divided Fed when they're trying to figure out what to do about economic growth. Why do we have such division in terms of economic thought right now?

Swonk: I think the real issue here is we're in uncertain and uncharted territory. And when you're in uncharted territory, everyone has a different view on the path out. None of them may be the exact right path out, and that's the problem. It's legitimate to have debate when you're in such uncharted and unprecendented times.

Hobson: Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial, thanks so much as always.

Swonk: Thank you.

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