It’s time to focus on jobs

Enough fussing over deficit reduction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests the jobs market is treading water

Topics: RobertReich.org, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jobs Market, Social Security, Jobs report, Business, ,

It's time to focus on jobsJob seekers wait in line during a job fair in Portland, Ore., on April 24. (Credit: AP/Rick Bowmer)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

The news today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that the U.S. job market is treading water.

The number of new jobs created in December (155,000), and percent unemployment (7.8), were the same as the revised numbers for November.

Also, about the same number of people are looking for work (12.2 million), with additional millions too discouraged even to look.

Put simply, we’re a very long way from the job growth we need to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. That would be at least 300,000 new jobs per month.

All of which means job growth and wage growth should be the central focus of economic policy, not deficit reduction.

Yet all we’re hearing from Washington — and all we’re likely to hear as Republicans and Democrats negotiate over raising the debt ceiling — is how to cut the deficit.

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The typical American worker’s paycheck will drop this week because his or her Social Security tax will rise, from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s nonsensical.

We need to put more money into the pockets of average workers, not less. The first $25,000 of income should be exempt from Social Security taxes altogether, and we should make up the difference by eliminating the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes.

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His new movie "Inequality for All" is in Theaters. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

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