The unexpectedly good news of Friday’s jobs report that 2.5 million jobs were added in the last month is a rather inspiring testament to American ingenuity. Faced with an unprecedented crisis that forced businesses to completely shut down and workers to stay at home, those same companies and workers didn’t give up and instead improvised and found a way to get back to business. An unemployment rate of 13.3 percent, rather than the expected 20 or so percent is as clear evidence as we could get that the best way to keep the economic recovery going is to simply allow businesses to reopen.
“In May, employment rose sharply in leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade. By contrast, employment in government continued to decline sharply,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
That is pretty much the opposite of what was expected, since those were the industries that by their nature typically involve a lot of people gathered together, especially leisure and hospitality. What that says is that the businesses found ways to alter their practices to keep going. Think of the sheer number of restaurants that have switched to take out and delivery, the doctors now practicing telemedicine, the myriad companies that delved into telecommuting for the first time, or the construction workers who simply put on masks and went back to the projects they started.
The less-than-great news was that only 2.2 million of the jobs added in the last month were full-time ones, indicating people are scrambling for what work they can find. Still, it’s a sign in the right direction that so many are eager to get back. If there is one thing the outbreak has taught us, it is that people want to work, and to get out of their homes. We should let them rather than trying to encourage them stay at home on unemployment.
“I think this will take some of the wind out of the sails out of the push for a $1 trillion spending bill,” economist Stephen Moore, a member of President Trump’s economic recovery task force, told Fox Business Friday morning. Hopefully, he is correct. While the initial stimulus did serve a purpose in countering the shock caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, after authorizing $3.3 trillion in taxpayer dollars we have clearly passed the point of diminishing returns in terms of what those relief packages can do.
Rather than pile on more debt that will simply be a drag on the economy later, Congress should at the very least pull back and see if the recovery continues before spending yet more money. Getting people back to work will also help lessen the social unrest we’ve seen over the past week. People are obviously frustrated, and not without reason. Being unable to work doesn’t help things.