17 March 2014

Gallup Job Creation Index Back to Pre-Recession Levels

Gallup tracks job creation in the US, posting a three-day running average. Its posted values go back six years. Here is a graph that plots only the value on March 16, from 2008 to 2014.

The index is back to where it was just before the recession. It's worth remembering that six years ago, unemployment was 5.1 percent.

This is good news for the obvious reason that a job creation index this high will continue to bring down unemployment. Almost as importantly, as unemployment continues to lower wages will start going up. That is terribly overdue.

I think that this graph showing how household income has stagnated is probably the single most important graph from the president's recent economic report. It explains a host of political and economic issues, showing that household income last year was about where it was in the late 90s.

As household income has stagnated, it has simultaneously put pressure on two political fronts. Liberals, aware of how hard this economy has been on people, have pushed for a better safety net. Conservatives, aware of how hard this economy has been on government debt load, have pushed for less spending. Because of this reality of diminished household income, both sides are hugely disappointed: debt has soared even as government programs have been scaled back. 

Back when household income rose, it was possible to simultaneously increase government revenues and take-home pay; that makes for easy politics. When household income drops, so does take-home pay and money for government programs; that makes for hard politics.

If the rate of job creation rises, it won't just make things easier in households across the country. It will make politics a little easier in capitol buildings in DC and every state.

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