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The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its March 2011 national employment numbers report this morning:

Table A-15. Alternative measures of labor underutilization

U-3 Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate)

Seasonally adjusted

Mar. 2010 – 9.7%

Nov. 2010 – 9.8%

Dec. 2010 – 9.4%

Jan. 2011 – 9.0%

Feb. 2011 – 8.9%

Mar. 2011 – 8.8%

U-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force

Seasonally adjusted

Mar. 2010 – 16.8%

Nov. 2010 – 17.0%

Dec. 2010 – 16.7%

Jan. 2011 – 16.1%

Feb. 2011 – 15.9%

Mar. 2011 – 15.7%

[emphasis added]

8.8% is a lot better, given dubya’s legacy, but it’s still too high.

A release from the White House:

The Employment Situation in March

Posted by Austan Goolsbee on April 01, 2011 at 09:43 AM EDT

Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 230,000 in March, marking 13 consecutive months of private employment growth. Private sector employers added 1.8 million jobs over that period, including more than half a million jobs in the last three months. The unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month to 8.8 percent. The full percentage point drop in the unemployment rate over the past four months is the largest such decline since 1984, and, importantly, it has been driven primarily by increased employment, rather than people leaving the labor force.

As long as millions of people are looking for jobs, there is still considerable work to do to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. Nonetheless, the steep decline in the jobless rate and the solid employment growth in recent months are encouraging. The last two months of private job gains have been the strongest in five years. We are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this Administration – such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment – are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation.   We will continue to work with Congress to find ways to reduce spending, so that we can live within our means and focus on the investments that are most likely to help grow our economy and create jobs – investments in education, infrastructure, and clean energy.

In addition to the increases last month, the estimates of private sector job growth for January (now +94,000) and February (now +240,000) were revised up significantly. Overall payroll employment rose by 216,000 in March. Payroll employment grew in almost every sector. Solid employment increases occurred in professional and business services (+78,000), education and health services (+45,000), leisure and hospitality (+37,000), wholesale and retail trade (+31,800), and manufacturing (+17,000). Local government experienced a decline of 15,000, and has shed jobs in 16 of the past 17 months.

The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years, but there will surely be bumps in the road ahead.  The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision.  Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

Austan Goolsbee is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Who could have predicted? From a February 11, 2009 White House conference call with bloggers:

“…and frankly, it’s not rocket science…” (February 12, 2009)

Jared Bernstein: ….Uh, but the, the kind of quantitative metrics you suggested I also think are important. Um, the unemployment rate, uh, is expected in the absence of, uh, this, uh, uh, package to get up into something close to double digits, uh, um, by, uh, um, the, uh, probably, uh, late, uh, uh, later, uh, sometime a, I, I would guess, uh, around, um, late this year, uh, next year in the absence of, of our package. Um, I think, uh, the package should help to reduce the unemployment rate by about a couple of points. So, instead of being nine, nine and half, ten, ten and a half per cent, uh, the unemployment rate, uh, uh, um, may go, uh, oh a point, a point and a half higher than it is right now. It’s about seven and a half, so we could be looking at eight and a half, you know, maybe, maybe that neighborhood instead of, uh, maybe seven and a half by the end of, uh, two thousand and ten kind of back down to where we are now. Uh, if, uh, if the program is, is, successful. Now, uh, you have to be very careful when you give these quantitative metrics because, uh, they’re kind of, uh, uh, if things go as planned and obviously, uh, there’s lots that could happen between now and then. And no economist can, can, can know the future. That’s one of the reasons why our forecasts have large, um, guess, uh, confidence intervals, but large margins of error around them,

And so, uh, I think we should look for unemployment that, that is lower than it would be otherwise. Uh, um, we think we’re gon…to, as I said, create or save, uh, three, four million jobs. We’ll be tracking that closely….

[emphasis added]

What happened? The deficit scolds cut back on the stimulus. Because Wall Street doesn’t give a damn about unemployment?

From 2009:

Now what, Claire? (October 2, 2009)

Remember this, from February?:

Just saw Krugman’s comments on reduction in recov act. Question for him. Would no stimulus act be better than one thats 800 B instead of 900

Paul Krugman:

…What happened was a, a lack of conviction, a lack of, you know, if you’re gonna do something like this you’re gonna have a stimulus program you gotta go and do it…This is the kind of situation where you’re trying to build a bridge across an economic chasm. If you build half a bridge it doesn’t work. You have to do the real thing…

[….]

And to think, if millionaires hadn’t retained their Bush era tax windfall before the 2010 election because Democrats in Congress and the Administration always blink we’d probably have lower unemployment and a lower deficit to boot.

Now what?