Great Employment Report

Popular Economics Weekly

The U.S. created 222,000 new jobs in June as hiring accelerated in the spring, showing that companies are still finding ways to add staff despite a growing shortage of skilled workers.

The increase in new jobs was the largest in four months and second biggest increase of the year. Hiring was also stronger in May and April than previously reported, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Graph: Econoday

The most important take from the labor report was that a total of 361,000 new workers entered the labor force, which is why the unemployment rate ticked up slightly from 4.3 to 4.4 percent.

Also good news was that governments hired 35,000 more workers. It was a sign that state governments are financially healthy again, and beginning to spend on needed infrastructure repairs. How are they doing this?

California is one of seven states raising gas taxes (since the federal government won’t) to pay for the backlog of work that needs to be done, and at a time of record low gas prices. It will also boost economic growth. They aren’t waiting for congress and the White House to make up their minds on spending priorities, in other words.

California Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law its increase in higher fuel taxes and vehicle fees, which gives the state an estimated $52 billion more money to help cover the state’s transportation needs for the next decade.

The money comes largely from a 12-cent increase in the base gasoline excise tax and a new transportation improvement fee based on vehicle value. Other money will come from paying off past transportation loans, Caltrans savings, and new charges on diesel fuel and zero-emission vehicles. “The bulk of the revenue raised will go to various state and local road programs, as well as public transit, goods movement and traffic congestion,” said the Sacramento Bee announcement.

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Graph: KABC-TV

Seven states raising the gas taxes, according to The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Indiana, Montana and Tennessee lead the raises. California’s increase just kicked in July 1. Iowa and Nebraska, meanwhile, are the only states to lower their gas taxes.

April and May employment were also revised higher by 47,000 jobs, in the BLS unemployment report, “which signals that the apparent weakness in past months was just a blip due in part to late data reporting,” said Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research at the National Association of Realtors, as reported by Marketwatch.

It is, all in all, a very optimistic employment report. Government spending is the biggest plus, as that has been the most significant lack in the eight years of this recovery from the Great Recession. All those infrastructure upgrades are needed, right?

I have cited several times that of the more than 600,000 bridges in the U.S., at least 200,000 are more than 70 years old and need immediate repairs, not to speak of our electrical grid that is as old. In fact, not much has been done to our transportation network, in general. Most of our highways are more than 70 years old, as well.

This should be a no-brainer. Productivity and hence economic growth depends on these repairs and upgrades. Washington has been unable to do the needed work because it is locked in political gridlock, so it’s great news that the states want to take up the slack. Even conservatives can agree on that.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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