May Jobs Report: Ugh

No way around it: the BLS jobs report for May is a dose of bad news. Net jobs were up 69,000 (150,000 expected), but worse yet were the downwards adjustments in the March (from 154k to 143k) and April (from 115k to 77k) jobs numbers. The unemployment rate was up slightly to 8.2%.

There’s no single explanation in sight for the apparently slowing economy, other than the usual “warm winter accelerated economic activity” rap that really just suggests the slowdown started earlier.

The May report is not that big a deal in itself; no one was under the impression the economy is booming, and we are nowhere in the vicinity of a double-dip recession. It’s the reaction of investors and (ultimately) consumers that’s worrisome, particularly given the shaky situation in Europe and the growing signs of a slowdown in China.

Politically, it remains inscrutable to me why anyone would think a weak recovery from a deep recession sends a signal that we need to encourage the banking sector to reengage in the risky business of the recent past, or boost the ranks of Americans without health insurance by 30 or 50 million, or rush towards a new war with Iran–you know, the kind of things a Romney administration and a Republican Congress promise to bring us. But make no mistake, these jobs numbers will be in the daily talking points of every GOP gabber for the next 30 days.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.