[messengers] Unemployment Tumbles Amid Slow Jobs Growth

Date: 5 Feb 2011 14:09:26 +0100
From: Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>


Unemployment Tumbles Amid Slow Jobs Growth

 

All Things Considered, NPR, February 4, 2011

 

 

Audio:

http://www.npr.org/2011/02/04/133504075/Unemployment-Tumbles-Amid-Slow-Jobs-Growth

 

 

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

 

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele
Norris.

 

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

 

And I'm Robert Siegel.

 

The unemployment rate in the U.S. has fallen to 9 percent.
That's the word today from the Labor Department. It's the second month in a row
that the unemployment rate has tumbled, which might sound encouraging, but at
the same time, job growth in January was anemic.

 

Here's NPR's Chris Arnold to explain the mixed signals.

 

CHRIS ARNOLD: The U.S. has lost more than eight million jobs
since 2007, and the Labor Department says, last month, it gained only 36,000 of
those jobs back. So that's really nothing. But here's what's surprising and
confusing. The unemployment rate is falling sharply anyway.

 

Dr. LISA LYNCH (Dean, Brandeis University):
Well, it's enough to make anyone's head spin. Is it good news; is it bad news
in today's report?

 

ARNOLD: Lisa Lynch is a dean
at Brandeis University and a former chief economist
at the U.S. Department of Labor.

 

Dr. LYNCH: Certainly, the drop in the unemployment rate down
to 9 percent is very good news.

 

ARNOLD:
Lynch thinks that that trend is real. And as far as the unexpectedly small new
jobs number...

 

Dr. LYNCH: That reflected in part some fluky issues in the
employment numbers when the data were collected. They were collected in a week
in January where we had a lot of severe weather across the country.

 

ARNOLD:
There was ice in the South, floods in the West, snowstorms seemingly everywhere
else. So Lynch says when you look at the industries where people work indoors,
the report actually looks pretty good - take manufacturing of everything from
computers to cars, to different kinds of metals.

 

Dr. LYNCH: We saw over 60,000 jobs added in the economy, and
that's terrific. These are well-paying jobs, more skilled jobs, and that's a
sign of hope going forward.

 

ARNOLD:
But when you look at people who work outdoors - doing construction or shipping
and delivering packages - fewer people were able to work. And Lynch says that
probably skewed the numbers. For example, you have to be really dedicated to
want to work as a bike messenger in a blizzard.

 

Those just look like kind of regular baldish city tires. I
mean, can you stay up in the snow on those?

 

Mr. GRAHAM CONWAY(ph) (Bike Messenger, Breakaway Courier
Systems): They sort of cut through all the snow and go right down to the road
surface.

 

ARNOLD: On the street in Boston, bike messenger
Graham Conway is riding slowly down the sidewalk to talk to me. Graham is 23.
He's wearing wet sneakers with wool socks, and he's been making deliveries and
dodging obstacles that could send him flying off his bike into traffic.

 

Mr. CONWAY: Inattentive cabdrivers and like wet manhole
covers in the road.

 

Mr. TOM CROMWELL (Co-owner, Breakaway Courier Systems):
Yeah. Well, you know the snow is coming on Saturday night.

 

ARNOLD: Inside the offices of
Breakaway Courier in downtown Boston,
Tom Cromwell is one of the owners. He's calling orders over to his dispatchers.

 

Mr. CROMWELL: His name?

 

Unidentified Man: Yo.

 

Mr. CROMWELL: That's Richie(ph). He just has a pickup at
their office in Andover going to Lynn.

 

ARNOLD:
The delivery business is actually an interesting one to look at because you can
see firsthand the different ways that the economy is slowly picking up steam
again. Cromwell says, for example, restaurants are doing more business, so his
drivers pick up more crates of fresh fish at the airport.

 

Mr. CROMWELL: Logan
Airport a couple of times a week when
they catch it, it's day-boat fish and from Florida, and it seems like legal and the
financial industries are a lot busier now.

 

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

 

Mr. CROMWELL: I got to just grab this call.

 

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

 

Mr. CROMWELL: Johnny. You just dropped off the nebulizer.
That's good.

 

ARNOLD:
The company has also been delivering medical gear to asthma patients at their
homes. That's turned into a pretty steady source of work. And back before this
past month with all the crazy weather, the pickup in business led Cromwell here
to hire on more people.

 

Mr. CROMWELL: You know, I would think we've picked up five
or six full-time couriers.

 

ARNOLD:
But it's going to take a lot more companies all over the country hiring a lot
more people to keep bringing down the unemployment rate.

 

At 9 percent, it hasn't been that high for so long since
1948 when the data started being collected.

 

Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.