Maybe someone should do something

MAYBE SOMEONE SHOULD DO SOMETHING…. It’s Thursday, which means the new weekly numbers are released showing initial claims for unemployment insurance. Economists expected the number to drop last week. They didn’t — the total rose to 500,000, the highest since November. After some more encouraging reports earlier in the summer, new jobless claims have gone up every week for the past month.

To put this in perspective, economists would look for the number to drop 400,000 to signal a healthier job market that can bring the unemployment rate down. Lately, we’ve been moving in the wrong direction. The Washington Post‘s Neil Irwin said this morning’s report “feels more double dip-ish than tepid growth-ish.”

It coincided with news from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’ that showed “manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic states shrank this month. The index fell to minus 7.7 points in August — its lowest level since July 2009 — from last month’s 5.1 points.”

With that in mind, President Obama spoke briefly this afternoon, talking up a bill to boost small business incentives, and urging Republicans that have refused to let the Senate vote on the legislation to give it consideration when lawmakers return from their recess.

“There will be plenty of time between now and November to play politics,” he said. “But the small business owners I met with this week, the ones that I’ve met with across the country this year, they don’t have time for political games. They’re not interested in what’s best for a political party. They’re interested in what’s best for the country. When Congress reconvenes, this jobs bill will be the first business out of the gate. And the Senate Republican leadership needs to stop its efforts to block it.”

I get the point of remarks like these. This morning’s report was an unexpected blow, and for those fearing another economic downturn, it was yet another reason to feel less confident about where we’re headed. The president knows, of course, that the Senate can’t vote on the small-business bill during a recess, but he made the remarks anyway, as if to say, “Don’t worry, we’re working on it.”

But as much I often appreciate Obama’s remarks for their morale-boosting qualities, this wasn’t making me feel better. By any reasonable measure, the bill with small-business incentives is a good proposal, which deserves to pass. Republican opposition to it really is ridiculous. But it’s not the kind of sweeping measure that’s going to turn around a growing jobs crisis. It’s an arrow in a quiver — and a good one — but we’re going to need a lot more.

So, is there any good news? Reader T.K. alerted me to this report in USA Today on many domestic corporations “sharply increasing their capital spending this year,” fueling hopes that “business investment could help pick up the slack and eventually spark job growth that lifts the economy from its doldrums.”

Here’s hoping.