This is very much in accordance with the type of recovery the US economy is seeing: the permanent loss of high paying jobs in finance, advertising, and consumption, and a transition to jobs in mining, farming, and natural resource exports.
It's also important to remind ourselves that, compared to the past ten years, the annual averages of total employed in both 2010 and 2011 -- which have been heralded as "recovery years" -- are still far below pre-recession peaks. 2007 saw 146.05 million of total average employment, while 2011 saw an average 139.87 million. So even the strong appearance of recovery in the monthly series needs to be tempered by the big picture: The US not only has to put the long-term unemployed back to work, it has to create enough new jobs to cover population growth, too. So far, that's just not happening.
The New American Jobs Mix: Part-Time Work
While it's true that the post-2008 recovery has seen a rebound in state, local, and federal tax receipts, these trends have not exactly been robust.
Again, there's no need to argue whether the post-2008 recovery has been weak. Just about everyone now, including the perennial optimists, agree that this was neither a typical post-war recession nor a typical post-war recovery. What remains in dispute, however, is whether normalcy can ever be fully reestablished.
I would say no.
And I would say that's not necessarily a bad thing. If the great symbiosis (hat tip: Don Coxe), in which endless American consumption of foreign goods was recycled back into our Treasury market, was sustainable, then it would still be in effect. But alas, it was not the fate of the US to claim ownership of all of the world's full-time, highest paying jobs. Eventually the ability of the developing world to also obtain math, science, and engineering education has revealed itself. Now Americans face a more competitive world with fewer embedded advantages.
Let's take a look at the actual mix of full-time vs. part-time jobs growth over the past five years:
America used to produce and maintain nearly five full-time jobs for every part-time job. But now that ratio has fallen nearly 15%, as part-time jobs outpace full-time job growth. This is ground zero of the weak economic recovery. Americans feel poorer because their wages are indeed lower, their benefit packages are shrinking or nonexistent, and their purchasing power is not keeping up with the rise in food, energy, and health care costs.
This structural change is reflected in Federal Tax Receipts, as reported by the US Treasury. Like the recovery itself, (withheld) receipts emerged from the lows of 2009, but are flattening once again:
The Fed's Outlook on Jobs
Among the important shifts in policy and procedure announced in the latest Fed meeting was a renewed emphasis on jobs. And Chairman Bernanke has been explicit, in the wake of this most recent jubilant jobs report, that the US recovery has a long way to go:
Though the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January, many Americans have stopped looking for work and have therefore been pushed out of the workforce, perhaps permanently. The labor force participation rate fell in January to 63.7 percent -- its lowest level since January 1982. More than 40 percent of those currently unemployed have been without work for more than six months, Bernanke noted. That's roughly double the share during the housing boom of the early and mid-2000s, he said. That adds up to 5.5 million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more, not to mention three to five million more people who have dropped out of the labor force because they have given up looking for work. Bernanke has previously warned about the prolonged economic harm of long-term unemployment. In September the Fed chairman called long-term unemployment a "national crisis." "This has never happened in the post-war period in the United States," Bernanke said in September. "They are losing the skills they had, they are losing their connections, their attachment to the labor force." -- Ben Bernanke: Long-Term Unemployment Crisis Altering Job Market For the Worse.
A stubborn contingent refuses to believe that further quantitative easing (QE) from the Fed is either imminent or necessary. In an inversion of causality, some even believe that if the Fed were to withhold further QE, it would either confirm or, improbably, ensure that the "recovery" carried onward.
To believe such things, however, one would also have to believe that QE1 and QE2 did nothing stabilize the system. Likewise, that the European version of QE was also without effect. Well, the Fed as an institution no doubt suffers from extreme normalcy bias, but starting in early 2011, it clearly began to surrender its belief in a normal economic recovery. And you should, too.