At a time when grim stories keep surfacing in the news – everything from ISIS brutalities to ebola scares – it’s refreshing to hear the latest news from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
The department just announced 248,000 jobs were added nationwide in September, bringing the official unemployment rate down to 5.9 percent – the first time it has been below 6 percent in years. The rate had been 6.1 percent in August.
There’s no doubt about it: That’s good news. It’s a light at the end of a long dark tunnel. It’s cause for renewed hope, if not rejoicing. There are still systemic problems in the U.S. economy – stagnant growth in wages or even declines in actual wages when inflation is considered; lopsided recoveries in many depressed areas of the country; people having to take jobs far below their skill levels; part-timers who want full-time jobs; and some people who have become utterly discouraged about finding a job.
Statistics remain gloomy for unemployment among women, youth and Afro-Americans. Their lot did not improve with the September “good news.”
Despite those disappointments and challenges, we should welcome the good news. For one thing, the strong September showing now puts 2014 on record as the best year for job-growth gains since the late 1990s.
According to the DLS, there have been 10.3 million jobs added in the private sector during the past 55 months, and that number is an all-time record.
Let us hope this job-growth trend continues strong into the future and that it has a snowballing effect, eventually improving the variety of jobs, the quality of skilled jobs and rising wages. The time is long overdue for the working poor and the middle class to catch up after the abysmal, nearly total economic collapse of 2008 when big-bank recklessness wreaked havoc. Since then, Wall Street has done very well, during some periods at record levels. Unfortunately, on the whole, that Wall Street enrichment has not trickled down to Main Street.
There will need to be more adjustments made to ensure prosperity reaches all levels of society, but at the very least the huge improvement in the number of jobs being created is an upbeat indication that – despite any other problems – we’re on the right track, heading in the right direction.