The right numbers: Against the odds, the economy is humming

Good news came Friday morning with the release of the latest Department of Labor statistics showing another period of wage and job gains and low unemployment — with 3.7% as of last month, it has stayed under the 4% threshold for two years for the first time in a generation.

The numbers aren’t just good, they’re persistently above expectations and well above gloomy predictions that we would surely be in a recession by now, particularly given the difficulty of a soft landing after the Federal Reserve shot up rates in response to inflation. The conventional wisdom for a half century of economic analysis was that in the best case scenario, we’d end up with significantly higher unemployment and be thankful for that once inflation cooled.


We were certainly among those who had worried for months that the Fed would step too zealously on the brakes and skid the economy into the gutter by raising rates to the point that they’d trigger an economic meltdown. Now, we must say, they managed to thread the needle, tamping down on inflation while overseeing an economy that has added jobs, raised wages and kept humming along. Take a bow, Chairman Jay Powell.

There’s a motif among some critics now that the economic numbers aren’t capturing some deep-seated economic malaise, and it certainly is true that the bird’s-eye facts and figures cannot possibly encompass the complexity of a multi-trillion-dollar economy, and that there are plenty of people the tide has not raised.

Key costs like housing and child care are far too high, and we’ll always be the first to push to make things better: better and more affordable education, more affordable housing, accessible transit, widespread access to health care and so on.

Nonetheless, to claim that we’re in a worse economy than we were last year or the year before, is simply false, even as it is an easily exploitable narrative for the political right and left. Unfortunately, they’re abetted by an information environment where voters often go off gut feelings rather than outcomes. Against the odds, the Fed and the Biden administration have kept the economy stable and growing, and not, as the criticism tends to go, just for the rich.

Real wages of the lowest-paid workers have risen significantly in the past couple years, and Biden’s pro-labor government has helped propel some of the most robust labor gains in decades. The most frustrating trend of the U.S. economy since the 1980s has been rises in productivity and economic output without commensurate increases in wages, happening simultaneously with a stagnating social safety net. That truism, at last, seems to be shifting, with workers enjoying more of the fruits of their labor.

This despite a recalcitrant (barely) GOP-controlled House that has endeavored to do not much of anything at all. Imagine what could be possible without obstructionists trying to stymie progress. Perhaps if Republican critics could divert some attention away from efforts to portray a strong economy as decrepit, they could actually help with this economic revitalization and pass legislation that might help their constituents.

We won’t be counting on that for a party apparatus that remains completely in thrall to the depravations of Donald Trump. Hopefully voters will be the ones to remind them what’s important.

—New York Daily News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email