The November U.S. jobs report was a monster one- total jobs up 321,000, and the previous two months revised up by another 44,000, for 365,000 total jobs above the level that we thought we were at last month. The gains were pretty broad across numerous segments of the economy, including a big jump in the retail sector (50,000), which could portend hopes for a good Holiday shopping season, 28,000 new jobs in manufacturing, and 20,000 in construction. Even the unemployment rate staying at 5.8% masks a recent step in the right direction, since the “employed” part of the survey has gone up 687,000 over the last two months, surpassing the labor force increase of 535,000.
Another positive sign in the jobs report is wage growth showed up in the November report, as average hourly wages rose by 9 cents to $24.66 an hour (0.4%), and the work week also rose, which bumped up average weekly earnings by more than $5.50. Wage growth has been the missing link in this economy, and if this increase continues, it’s a good sign, because an economy with 70% of its base in consumption needs to have people continue to consume, and it’s pretty darn hard to do so without them having money in their pocket. These wage gains need to be sustained over a longer amount of time - average hourly earnings are still only up 2.1% in the last 12 months before inflation, which is below the gains in productivity and GDP – but maybe the pickup in wage growth is a harbinger of workers finally starting to get some of their harder and more efficient work given back to them. God knows it’s long overdue.
The November report brings the total job growth in 2014 to 2.65 million jobs, the most in 15 years, which gives me a great excuse to bust out this classic from the Purple One (not that you should ever have to explain why you might put on some Prince), even if it's a song about nuclear apocalypse.
But it sure doesn’t feel like the dot-com days of 1999 here in Wisconsin, as this report is yet another piece of data that shows how much we have lagged the Obama Recovery. If Wisconsin had merely kept up with the national rate of job growth since Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP came to power in January 2011, we would have over 198,000 jobs by the end of October 2014 (the last month Wisconsin has been measured at), 205,000 private sector jobs for November 2014, and jobs have grown twice as fast nationwide in 2014 as they have in Wisconsin. The state needs to add approximately 6,700 jobs in the November jobs report just to keep up with the torrid national rate, and the positive revisions for September and October makes Scott Walker’s jobs gap grow even higher, now at almost 72.500 private sector jobs, and nearly 67,000 jobs overall.
The possibility of the Obama Recovery picking up even more steam is striking in light of slowdowns in other areas of world such as Japan and Russia, and Germany, who all seem to be heading into recessions. Efforts to slow that U.S. growth down, be it with idiotic shutdowns and handcuffs from a GOP-led Congress or through regressive wage repression such as right-to-work-for-less in Wisconsin, should be strongly fought against. We should be loudly warning against the spectre of selfish politics and greed that could kill this recovery before we reach the full employment and healthy wage growth that the vast majority of people in this country need. And deserve.