It is generally considered bad journalistic practice to start an article this way, but it must be said: The new jobs numbers that the Labor Department released Friday morning don’t matter.
These numbers can sometimes be unimportant in the sense that any one economic report offers only a partial view of what is going on, and is subject to margins of error and future revisions.
But it’s more than that in this case. This jobs report is inconsequential because the economy is at a momentous inflection point — what matters is not what happened in the last few weeks, but where things end up several weeks from now.
The report that 379,000 jobs were added in February and that the unemployment rate edged down to 6.2 percent is good news. It is a better result than what was recorded in January, and better than forecasters expected.
help manufacture the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is a bigger deal for out-of-work waiters and line cooks than the 286,000 bar and restaurant jobs added in February.
Things remain murky on the longer-term implications of the crisis. The surge in employment in February was entirely driven by people no longer being on temporary layoff — the number of these temporarily unemployed workers fell by 517,000 people. The number of permanent job losers remained steady at astronomical levels — 2.2 million higher than a year ago.
That raises questions about which jobs destroyed during the pandemic will come back. Are there certain patterns of behavior and business models that are gone forever? And what will the people who once worked in those businesses do now?
That’s the hardest question about the future. It is easy to describe the pathway back for jobs at schools and restaurants. But true economic health will mean that those 2.2 million people find their way back into the ranks of the employed as well, and that could take more than just a shot in the arm.