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The Illusion of Job Growth: Unpacking the March Jobs Report

The Illusion of Job Growth: Unpacking the March Jobs Report

Apr 16, 2024

The Illusion of Job Growth: Unpacking the March Jobs Report

In a recent labor market assessment, the United States appeared to celebrate another month of robust employment growth, as detailed in the March jobs report. The economy reportedly added nearly 300,000 new positions, far surpassing the expectations of even the most optimistic financial analysts. This headline figure marked the third consecutive month of significant job gains, but a closer examination reveals a more nuanced and somewhat troubling picture.

While the aggregate numbers suggest a thriving job market, a paradox emerges: these gains are predominantly part-time roles. Full-time employment, in contrast, experienced a slight decline with a loss of 6,000 jobs. This is part of a larger trend over the past year, where the workforce has seen a substantial decrease of approximately 1.5 million full-time jobs, supplanted by the addition of nearly 2 million part-time positions.

Another concerning trend is the demographic distribution of these job changes. Native-born Americans have fared poorly, losing an estimated 651,000 jobs in the last month alone and nearly 1.5 million over a three-month period. Since 2018, there has been virtually no job growth for the native-born population, while foreign-born individuals have captured all new employment opportunities. According to the Center for Immigration Statistics, about half of these jobs have been filled by the estimated 9 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S.

Educational attainment further stratifies the labor market. While employment prospects are considerably better for those with a bachelor's degree—90% of whom are employed—the situation is starkly different for U.S.-born men with only a high school diploma, with over one-third not working.

Complicating the analysis is the discrepancy between the official payroll numbers, which are sampled from companies, and household surveys that inquire directly about employment status. The current gap stands at about 9 million 'phantom jobs,' casting doubt on the veracity of reported employment figures.

This 'jobs miracle' is occurring against the backdrop of substantial federal deficits, with the government running a $2 trillion deficit that, theoretically, should bolster employment through increased spending. However, this raises concerns about the underlying health of the job market once government stimulus is stripped away.

The economic landscape is also influenced by immigration policies and fiscal measures. An open border policy and unchecked government spending are expected to continue inflating job numbers, with the potential side effect of suppressing wage growth for those native-born individuals who remain employed. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has previously noted the impact of immigration on blue-collar wages, suggesting it helps contain inflation at the expense of the wages of American workers.

With the upcoming election, there may be hope for change, but the current bipartisan consensus on government spending, regulatory pressures on small businesses, and reliance on cheap labor imports suggests that any relief may be limited and fiercely contested.

As the nation grapples with these complex labor market dynamics, the realities behind the 'Biden jobs miracle' will continue to be scrutinized. The true measure of economic vitality goes beyond surface-level statistics to the lived experiences of American workers.


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