More Jobs, but Still Not Enough

The U.S. economy produced 103,000 jobs in September, according to the BLS. Obama signed an executive order to create an emergency board to help the dispute between freight-rail carriers and their unions. And banks worldwide took steps to defuse the debt bomb.

October 7, 2011
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user aflcio

The U.S. economy produced 103,000 jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Some of those were Verizon workers returning from strike, but that’s still much better than the zero jobs created in August — which everyone can agree was a nervous month. Still, the September total is hardly enough to begin the long climb out of the jobs recession the nation has been stuck in since 2008. The official U.S. unemployment rate, 9.1 percent, didn’t change from August to September.

On Thursday the BLS had reported that initial claims for unemployment for the week ending Oct. 1 were up only slightly, by 6,000, to a total of 401,000. The week before, the claims were at their lowest level since April, though it was, and still is, too early to say that these weekly movements are anything more than natural volatility.

The four-week unemployment claim average, a less volatile indicator, moved downward slightly for the week ending Oct. 1, according to the BLS. The average was 414,000, down by 4,000. That’s still above 400,000, which is an important psychological benchmark in tracking unemployment, but not too far north of that number.

President Acts to Prevent Rail Strike

The fact that President Obama has gone on the offensive lately hasn’t been overlooked by either the administration’s friends or foes, as the outline of the 2012 campaign already seems to be taking shape more than a year before the election and even before the Republicans have selected a candidate. Recently the president challenged the House once again to pass a jobs bill he’s certain they won’t pass, offered his opinion against Bank of America’s debit-card fee and expressed some sympathy for Occupy Wall Street.

Less noticed was the president’s signing of an executive order on Thursday to create an Emergency Presidential Board and name its members, who will be responsible for helping “resolve an ongoing dispute between major freight rail carriers and their unions,” according to a White House statement, which also said that “it’s in our national interest to make sure our freight rail system runs smoothly, since a disruption could affect businesses across the country and cause unnecessary damage to our already-fragile economy.”

The move came on the heels of a vote by Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen to strike on Friday over a dispute over pay and health-care benefits. Under existing law, the president can form such a board if a looming strike or lockout threatens interstate commerce. Once he does so, no strike or lockout can occur for 30 days as the board mulls its recommendations and then for 30 more days as the two parties consider those recommendations. Presidents and railroads actually go back quite a ways (Lincoln was a railroad lawyer), but the move by the Obama administration isn’t quite as dramatic as President Truman’s seizure of U.S. railroads to prevent a strike at the beginning of the Korean War.

Central Banks Hive of Activity Worldwide

The European Central Bank, after meeting in Berlin earlier this week, said that it was planning to start buying bonds and other debt in an attempt to defuse the time-bomb that is the euro-zone’s debt crisis. The Bank of England got in on the act, too, by saying that it’s ramping up its asset-purchase program by 275 billion pounds ($424 billion, give or take a few measly millions).

It all seems to be part of a reaction worldwide by central banks to forestall another recession. Australia’s bank is lowering its benchmark interest rates, as did Israel’s, while Russia’s is selling more foreign currency reserves, as is Turkey’s. The central banks of South Korea and Malaysia have both recently decided not to raise rates. So far one of the exceptions to these movements or non-movements on interest rates has been the People’s Bank of China, which has been consistently raising rates in recent months, presumably to forestall asset bubbles in that country.

Wall Street remained optimistic on Thursday, clearly not worried about the upcoming jobs numbers, nor about fuming protesters marching near the literal Wall Street, nor even the loss of Steve Jobs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 183.38 points, or 1.68 percent, while the S&P 500 was up 1.83 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.88 percent.