Cecilia Rouse, the first Black female to chair the Council of Economic Advisers, knows a lot of assumptions and actions are happening as a result of April’s job numbers.
Economists projected more than 1 million new jobs would be added in April, but last Friday it was announced only 266,000 new jobs were added. While many reacted quickly when the numbers were announced, Rouse, took a long -term view. For her, the numbers show positives.
“I was surprised that it was so far off of forecast but it was still a positive number. It showed we created as measured by the week in which employment is measured 266,000 more jobs than there was before and that is positive news,” Rouse told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “What we’ve seen since the president took office is in that on average 500,000 jobs a month [are added] and that was a discreet improvement from before and I think it shows were on the right track.”
Rouse added the pandemic is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Almost overnight the country and its economy was forced to shut down for more than a year. As a result, this will not be a quick recovery–and the country is still early in its recovery.
Vaccinations are being given at a record pace, but it doesn’t mean the economy is ready to take off just yet. Only 35% of the country is fully vaccinated, which means the majority of the country is still working at or staying at home.
Rouse, the former dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, told BLACK ENTERPRISE she expected a slow recovery with bumps in the road. Coronavirus cases are down 30% over the last two weeks but many jobs aren’t ready for a full staff or a typical day’s worth of customers.
“We powered down the country in a way that has never been done so when you power down an economy it doesn’t just snap back on,” Rouse said. “I fully expected bumps along the way. We started vaccinations for adults the week after the Bureau of Labor statistics measured employments in April.”
Republican governors hopped on the low job numbers to indicate that American workers are making too much to stay at home. Governors in Montana, South Carolina and Arkansas announced plans to cut expanded federal jobless benefits, arguing that an extra $300 a week is keeping people from working.
However, that is a short-sighted view of the recovery.
For starters, schools across the country are still closed and with the summer vacation less than a month away, many will stay that way. With childcare options either unaffordable or unavailable to millions of parents, many are still being forced to split time between working and raising their children.
Single parents may not have a choice but to stay home. The United States is also dealing with several shortages outside of labor, including lumber, gas, steel and semiconductors. These shortages are slowing the recovery and driving up prices at the same time.
One positive from the recovery is salaries for low-wage workers have increased
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, salaries and hourly wages passed their 2020 peak this March. The jump in wages includes low-wage workers in food preparation, servicing, cleaning, and individual care. Low-wage workers have seen a 3.2 percent jump in salaries since February, while salaries for high-wage workers have stayed flat an. Middle-wage workers have seen a 3.5% decline during the same time.
Rouse said the recovery will continue to be a slow process, but as vaccinations continue, cities and states reopen and in-person learning returns this fall, you can expect the recovery to continue.
“It’s only early May and the numbers are from early April,” Rouse told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “So I think we have to understand it’s going to take some time to dig out of the hole that we are in. We are waking up an economy and it turns out it’s pretty hard to wake up an economy that was shut down due to a pandemic, but we’re making progress and that’s due to the vaccination rollout and the American Rescue Plan, so we will get there.”