How to Interpret That Jobs Report

May 7, 2021

Full employment requires greater action.

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.

Jobs Day Takeaways

The worse-than-expected April jobs report can’t tell us everything about the course of economic recovery to come: As Paul Krugman wrote before the release of today’s numbers, “All indications are that we’re headed for the fastest year of growth since the ‘Morning in America’ boom of 1983–1984.”

That is likely still true, despite today’s disappointment. But with this snapshot, we can draw two conclusions. 

1. We’re a long way off from full employment.

As Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton told the Washington Post earlier this week, “The signs are, unemployment still remains high, particularly among Black people, and wages still remain flat.”

Confirmed. Ticking up to 6.1 percent, the unemployment rate remains well above the 3.5 percent rate of February 2020, and the economy is still 8.2 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels. While the unemployment rate for white people inched down to 5.3 percent, Black people experienced a slight increase to 9.7 percent.

“I think last month’s [jobs] number, which was too high and revised down, made people excited the story was ‘faster than ever recovery,’” Roosevelt’s Mike Konczal tweeted. “When the data then, as it is now, was that it’s a slog to get out of this, with pre-COVID employment not [expected to return] until [the] end of next year . . .” 

2. Passing the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan is an urgent necessity.

For economic, social, and moral reasons, waiting until the end of 2022 to return to pre-pandemic employment shouldn’t be an option—particularly when unemployment was still high among Black and brown people before the pandemic.

We’re likely to see higher employment and wages in the coming months, certainly compared to this month’s numbers. But fears of “overheating” are overblown; a booming economy and tight labor market can help ensure that the workers most often left behind during recoveries can find meaningful employment and livable pay.

And the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan are essential measures to create that kind of growth with overdue investments in our infrastructure and in our people.

Next week, watch this space for new American Families Plan analysis from Roosevelt’s Emily DiVito.


What the Vaccine Patent Waiver Means

This week, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden administration would support a World Trade Organization waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines—an unexpected development that will help vaccinate millions across the globe and could set a new precedent for challenging monopoly power.

“The scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines across the developing world is largely the result of efforts by vaccine manufacturers to maintain their monopoly control and profits,” Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Lori Wallach write for Project Syndicate. 

“Their goal is simple: to maintain as much market power as they can for as long as possible in order to maximize profits. Under these circumstances, it is incumbent on governments to intervene more directly in solving the vaccine supply problem.” Read on.


The Impact of Private Equity on Nursing Home Care

Almost one-third of COVID-19 deaths in the US have been linked to nursing homes, and studies have found that the outcomes were even worse in nursing homes owned by private equity firms, where infection and death rates were higher and there was less personal protective equipment

“The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted how we as a nation have failed vulnerable patients in nursing homes,” writes Melea Atkins in a new Roosevelt issue brief detailing the strategies private equity firms use to prioritize profits over care in nursing homes. 

“A lack of regulation and oversight has allowed private equity funds to profit from taxpayer dollars while endangering the elderly and infirm. It is critical that policymakers take decisive action to protect vulnerable patients from companies whose first priority is quick, outsized profits.”

Read more in a MarketWatch exclusive on the brief.


What We’re Reading

A New Deal, This Time for Everyone [feat. Roosevelt’s Mike Konczal]New York Times

Grading Biden on the FDR Curve [podcast]The Argument

Biden’s Proposals Aim to Give Sturdier Support to the Middle Class [feat. Roosevelt’s Felicia Wong and Joseph Stiglitz]New York Times

To Understand Why Joe Biden Has Shifted Left, Look at the People Working for HimThe Guardian

Corporate America Needs to Level with Investors on Climate Change [co-authored by Stiglitz]USA Today