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Jobs report badly disappoints, reinforces need for aid

Under normal circumstances, today's jobs report would be fine news. But therein lies the point: these aren't normal circumstances.

Expectations headed into this morning showed projections of about 440,000 new jobs added in the United States in October. As it turns out, according to this new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we fell far short of that.

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, as the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.... It is by far the lowest monthly total since the economy started its halting recovery.

As we've discussed more than once in recent months, the point is not that adding 245,000 jobs is some kind of disaster. Under normal circumstances, it'd be fine news.

But therein lies the rub: these aren't normal circumstances. Given the severity of the job losses from the spring, we need to see even more robust growth now to climb back to where we were.

The arithmetic is straightforward: in March and April, the economy shed over 22 million jobs. The United States has been adding jobs back since May, but we're only about halfway toward getting us back to where we were, and monthly totals have gradually decreased every month since June.

Consider an unsettling statistic: job growth was stronger in November 2019 (261,000 jobs) than in November 2020 (245,000 jobs) -- and there wasn't a pandemic crisis a year ago.

All of which leads to a painfully obvious point: Congress needs to pass an economic aid package. Or more to the point, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs to start working in good faith toward a credible and effective agreement.

All hope is not lost, at least not yet. Indeed, NBC News reported late yesterday, "Lawmakers are growing optimistic about a coronavirus relief deal as party leaders came together Thursday on a price tag after months of stalemate gave way to meaningful negotiations. But lingering policy disputes remain, and leaders still hope to combine the Covid-19 relief into a government funding bill by the Dec. 11 deadline to avert a shutdown. The emerging package includes more unemployment aid but excludes another round of $1,200 direct payments."

Above you'll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly changes in total jobs since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction: red columns point to monthly changes under the Bush and Trump administrations, while blue columns point to monthly job changes under the Obama administration.