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Your Place for Job Numbers Commentary

12:08 PM, Dec 4, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with the latest job numbers. In November the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent. So at least the number is headed in the right direction.

For more commentary, here's Megan McArdle: "It's very solidly good news: the labor force participation rate was basically unchanged, which means we're seeing an actual decline in the unemployment rate, not a spike in the number of people leaving the labor force because they can't find a job. The very large number of people working part time for economic reasons didn't fall significantly--but it didn't get much bigger, either."

And David Leonhardt: "Today's jobs report is by far the best one since 2007."

And Keith Hennessy:

I'd like to suggest five takeaway points for you:

Today's report is good news.
We should wait for one more month of data to confirm today's report before concluding that job declines have ended.
The picture has flattened out, but has not yet turned upward. In political rhetoric, if next month's data confirms today's data, we will no longer be "headed in the wrong direction." We won't be "headed in the right direction until the top graph turns up.
Once job growth has broken zero, the next threshold is +150K jobs per month. That should roughly coincide with a declining unemployment rate.
We have a long way to go:
We need the economy to create 3.3 million jobs to get back to the employment level when President Obama took office.
We need it to create 7.2 million jobs to get back to our previous high in December 2007.
We need it to create about 8 million jobs to get back to full employment.

And Paul Krugman: "Today's unemployment report was good news. But in a real sense good news is bad news, because this month's not-too-bad number deflates the sense of urgency." Meaning: it's good that the unemployment number is down, but bad because it may lessen the chances that the government will spend even more debt-financed money on New Deal: The Sequel.

I'll take Hennessy over Krugman and raise you an Arnold Kling: "Cut the employer contribution to the payroll tax. In the short run, this will reduce labor costs and increase profits. This will lead firms to expand and to raise employment. In the long run, it will lead to higher wages. When recovery comes, you can either bring back the payroll tax or replace it with a less regressive tax."

Exit quote comes from today's Rich Lowry column: "The ultimate source of jobs is the vast, chaotic entrepreneurial churn that has always characterized the American economy at its best. No recovery is sustainable without it, yet the White House remains fixated on the gewgaws of new government programs and quick gimmicks." Exhibits A and B.