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Jobs report falls in a vague sweet spot

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Kai Ryssdal: There was a certain beauty to today's unemployment report. The economy added almost 100,000 new jobs last month -- right in that sweet spot that you could interpret just about any way you wanted.

Good, bad, or none of the above.

Marketplace's Steve Tripoli starts us off.


Steve Tripoli: Everyone's waiting for some news that will stop the collective nail-biting about a recession. Don't shoot the messengers, but today's figures don't do it for the Conference Board's Ken Goldstein. He says once-resilient U.S. consumers were already down on the economy before today's so-so report.

Ken Goldstein: When we look at consumer expectations for August for September for October, it's crystal clear that that resiliency has wilted.

Households are braced for bad news, tightening spending and today won't change a thing. Goldstein says businesses aren't far behind.

Goldstein: Executives are not in any better shape and probably also making the decision in terms of investing and starting now in terms of hiring. If they don't need to right now, they're not going to.

Over at Youngstown State University in Ohio labor expert John Russo was equally unimpressed by 94,000 new jobs.

John Russo: You really have to be generating around 150,000 jobs every month to make up for the amount of people that are coming into the workforce.

Other economists were reassured. They see today's number supporting at least the notion that we won't slide into a deep recession. Ken Goldstein has a curt characterization for that thinking.

Goldstein: Grasping at straws.

And Youngstown's John Russo says those rosier outlooks come from those who don't want to be the first ones crying fire.

Russo: I think everybody is fearful that any sort of discussion will result in people not spending money and the economy slipping further into a recession.

So, let's call a mediocre jobs report a kind-of-OK one and hope for economic sunshine.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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