The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 8, 2014

Baby steps in right direction taken toward full economic recovery

It could be that things are looking up as far as employment goes, not just in West Virginia but in the nation as a whole.

For the first time since 1999, eight years prior to the recession’s start, American employers added more than 200,000 jobs a month for four straight months. In fact, last month’s gain of 217,000 jobs across the nation was far more significant that just another statistic. It represented the recovery of all the 9 million jobs lost during the Great Recession.

In our opinion, that’s the best bit of news we’ve heard when it comes to unemployment and the economy since 2007. Jobs are at pre-recession levels, and we believe that there’s only one way to go — up.

American consumers are feeling a lot more confident, and it’s showing in their spending habits and investments. People are buying cars again at rates we haven’t seen in some time, and manufacturing plants are expanding and increasing production to meet the demands of the market.

The unemployment rate is at 6.3 percent, a dramatic reduction of the 10 percent peak in 2009. In West Virginia, the unemployment rate is still below the national rate at 6 percent. The state has maintained a rate below the national average since 2007.

That’s all great news.

But there are some areas where improvement is certainly needed. For instance, Marion County’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate as of April, the most recent informational available, is a relative dark spot in North Central West Virginia, where surrounding counties like Monongalia and Harrison enjoy rates like 3.8 and 4.9 percent, respectively.

Nationally, though we’ve made up for all of the jobs lost to the recession, economists point out that 7 million more jobs are needed to make up for those that reached employment age during the recovery time period.

There’s also a lag in the percentage of people in the workforce, which continues to be at a 35-year low. And on top of that, increases in wages have only been about 2 percent annually, which doesn’t match the historic 3.5 percent growth we enjoyed for so many years before the economy sunk.

And of those employed, there are millions who work part time and want or need to work full time.

So it’s a mixed report. But we have taken a step forward without taking two steps back. We should celebrate that.

While the recession seemingly started overnight, we all knew that it would take years to recover from it.

And this latest data should demonstrate that while we may be taking baby steps toward full economic recovery and growth, at least those steps are being taken and the chart lines are moving in the right direction.

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Opinion
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