US jobs conundrum

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News:

Unemployment is now at 10.2 percent, and if you count the people who have stopped looking for jobs, the rate is probably closer to 17 percent. The U.S. economy continues to shed jobs, making this the worst recession since World War II.

No easy solutions or miracle policies will fix things. This nation is in for a long, troubling jobless recovery - one that is beginning to resemble Japan's malaise in the 1990s when heavy debt, high unemployment and sparse consumer spending caused a decade of economic stagnation.

In a speech last week, Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said: "It may be some time before significant job growth occurs and even longer before we see meaningful declines in the unemployment rate."

That is not a pleasant thought for a nation that traditionally has subsisted on retail gluttony during the weeks leading up to Christmas. This year's Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, will offer a sense of how wide Americans will open their wallets amid the nation's substantial economic woes. A meager showing could be the latest round of a self-fulfilling prophecy that will keep companies from hiring, consumers from spending and the economy from rebounding.

The president apparently hasn't ruled out additional stimulus spending and has scheduled a White House jobs summit next month to collect ideas. It's unclear what will come out of the December jobs meeting, but more government spending is not the way to go.

There are other go-and-do measures for this administration. The White House should encourage banks to expand credit to small businesses, which still provide the bulk of jobs. It also should level the investment playing field so that Wall Street paper shuffling doesn't displace true job creation. The White House also must open global markets so that more American-made goods are consumed overseas.

None of this will be easy. We shouldn't pretend that it will be.

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