After laying off workers through most of the recovery, city and county governments are adding jobs at the fastest pace in five years, providing support for the economy’s overall payroll gains. Stronger economic growth is driving higher municipal revenue, allowing local governments to add police officers and firefighters, reopen shuttered parks and make long-deferred street repairs. “We’re beginning to see cities and towns coming out of the Great Recession,” says Neil Bomberg, a program director for the National League of Cities. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, notes that total U.S. payroll gains have topped 200,000 each of the past four months.
Our businesses have added:
9.4 million jobs over 51 months ✔
More than 1 million this year ✔
216,000 in May ✔
Local governments are on more solid financial footing in part because of a gradual rise in home values that have boosted property tax collections, says Michael Pagano, dean of the college of urban planning and public affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Earlier this year, Columbus, Ohio, passed an $807 million operating budget, its largest ever, that restores six recreation centers that had been open part-time to full-time status. The city’s finances have been stable since it raised its income tax to 2.5% from 2% in 2009, says Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Michael Coleman.
On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk towards the White House after observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Arizona shooting, on the South Lawn, Jan. 10, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
The President has no public events scheduled
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
USA Today: Obama to visit North Carolina next week
President Obama will prepare for his Jan. 28 State of the Union speech with a visit next week to North Carolina. Obama will travel to the Raleigh-Durham area on Wednesday for an event on the economy, the White House announced Thursday.
…. The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added only 74,000 jobs in December, far below economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% – its lowest point since October 2008 – but that appears largely to be the result of people dropping out of the workforce.
…. this is an initial estimate, which will be revised twice more, and may end up looking far less discouraging than it does right now. Indeed, the revisions from October and November showed an additional 38,000 U.S. jobs that had been previously unreported.
…. For congressional Republicans to undermine the economy on purpose by cutting off extended unemployment benefits makes it that much more difficult for the job market to return to where it needs to be.
All told, so far in calendar year 2013, the economy added 2.18 million jobs, while the private sector alone created 2.21 million jobs.
December’s job totals were clearly a bitter disappointment, but now that we have 12 months of job data, we can ask a different question: how did 2013 shape up?
In all, the U.S. economy added 2.186 million jobs last year, while the private sector created 2.213 million. Looking back over the last couple of decades, that means when it comes to the overall economy, 2013 was the best year for jobs in the United States since 2005 and the second best year since 1999.
That’s right: last year, the economy created more jobs than seven of the eight years Bush/Cheney was in office….
Brian Beutler: Most important political news this week: New report kills GOP’s radical agenda
Christie and the bridge is big. But Obamacare driving down healthcare inflation is even bigger. Here’s why.
The furthest-reaching political news of the week has nothing to do with who clogged the George Washington Bridge or what Robert Gates thinks of Barack Obama’s completely justifiable skepticism of David Petraeus and the war in Afghanistan.
It came in a seemingly boring actuarial report from a government agency most people probably have never of, showing that for the first time since the 1990s, total U.S. healthcare spending grew at a slower rate than the U.S. economy at the beginning of the current decade.
This sounds like the kind of thing only wonks and other nerds care about, which is probably why it didn’t become a #hashtag meme on Twitter or whatever, but the implications of the great healthcare spending slowdown are vast, and have thus reignited a long-simmering academic and ideological debate over whether, and to what extent, Obamacare deserves credit.
Something really interesting is happening on the health-care front: costs are rising much less rapidly than anyone expected. This is good news for the budget; it’s also good news for Obamacare. There was much skepticism about promises that health reform would “bend the curve”, reducing cost growth; well, the curve is bending, and it’s likely that the cost control measures that are part of Obamacare (and have been in effect for several years) are part of the reason.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned much, however, is that another aspect of recent developments — the rapid rise in Medicaid enrollment, despite Republican efforts to block it — adds to the prospect of continuing good news on health costs.
Greg Sargent: Steve Beshear: Don’t fear the politics of Obamacare, Dems
The rollout of Obamacare in Kentucky may represent the most interesting experiment in the politics of health care in the country right now. Dem governor Steve Beshear is perhaps the most outspoken defender of the Affordable Care Act in the south. This, in a deep red state where the reform known as “Obamacare” is deeply unpopular; where the leading foe of the President’s agenda is on the ballot this year; and where the need for reform is urgent.
In an interview today, Beshear offered fellow Dems — red state and otherwise — some startling advice: Stand up for Obamacare because it’s the right thing to do. What’s more, Beshear insists, Republicans are wrong: the health law will be a political positive for Dems next fall.
“We’re doing the right thing,” Beshear told me. “That’s the most important point here. The people of America, and the people of Kentucky, deserve access to affordable health care. For the first time in the history of this country, we have a tool that allows us to accomplish this goal.”
The capital may be enduring a brief spell of record-low temperatures this week, but the federal deficit continues to melt away.
According to the latest figures from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the red ink for the first quarter of fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, dropped by almost 40% compared with the same period a year earlier.
The deficit has gone down so much that the federal government actually ran a surplus for December — a one-time occurrence that resulted from some special circumstances but still an indicator of the rapidly improving state of the government’s finances.
The New York Daily News isn’t often linked here …. but if you missed it, the editorial on Christie is a bit of a must-read: here
The Wire: The Four Key Questions Chris Christie Didn’t Answer at His Press Conference
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a lengthy press conference on Thursday aimed at answering questions about his administration’s involvement in the sudden decision to close traffics lanes in the town of Fort Lee last September. But a number of critical questions went unanswered.
Background: The closure of most of the on-ramp lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York the week of September 9 meant a massive traffic back-ups in Fort Lee, slowing emergency vehicles (with dangerous effect) and delaying commuters. The town’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, wrote a letter on Thursday of that week, suggesting the closures were punitive.
At the time, two Christie appointees ran the Port Authority’s New Jersey arm, both of whom have resigned. One, David Wildstein, had his emails subpoenaed, revealing that Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief of staff to Christie, told him shortly before the traffic change that it was “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Christie’s press conference lasted about two hours, but there remain some outstanding questions….
…. I spent a couple of hours watching his bop-til-you-drop press conference this morning, and I came to the following conclusion.
What a fking poltroon.
…. The basic theme of the press conference was that Big Chicken was responsible for one thing and one thing only — of trusting people who preyed on his well-known innocence and his extensively documented and deeply held faith in his fellow human beings …. What a world it is when a man cannot trust the hacks whom he appoints to serve him. Jesus H. Christ in the HOV lane, Nixon threw Haldeman and Ehrlichman out the windows with more compassion and fellow feeling than Christie demonstrated yesterday.
…. the simple fact is that Big Chicken remains a bully, and now he stands exposed as a coward, as most bullies are, and an entirely self-centered cad. “You need to understand this,” he said. “I am resolved to do the job, but I am a very sad person today. A person I gave a high public office betrayed me. I might get angry later. But I am a sad person today.”
On Thursday morning, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on HR 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.” That subcommittee, which is headed up by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and comprised of 12 other male lawmakers, is deciding whether to advance sweeping restrictions on abortion coverage that would make the procedure less affordable for women across the country.
Abortion opponents are relentless in their efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars don’t end up financing abortion services. But HR 7 is actually deceptively titled. Under the guise of preventing federal money from covering abortion, it would actually have dramatic consequences for the insurance industry and the tax code as a whole, potentially creating a society in which private insurance no longer includes abortion care.
10:15 AM: The President delivers remarks at the Anthropology Museum, Mexico City (White House live)
10:30: VP Biden and Sec of State Kerry deliver remarks at the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Memorial Plaque Ceremony at the State Department (White House live)
12:25: President Obama meets with Mexican entrepreneurs
1:25: Departs Mexico City
4:0: Arrives San Jose, Costa Rica
4:35: Meets and greets with United States Embassy personnel
5:40: The President and President Chinchilla hold a bilateral meeting
6:30: The President and President Chinchilla hold a cultural event with Costa Rican youth
7:15: Press conference
7:30: VP Biden speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s 2013 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner (C-Span)
7:35: President Obama participates in a photo with Central American Integration System leaders
9:0: Central American Integration System leaders meet for a working dinner
Bloomberg: Employment picked up more than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined to a four-year low of 7.5 percent, showing the early stages of government budget cuts failed to destabilize the U.S. labor market.
Payrolls expanded by 165,000 workers last month following a revised 138,000 increase in March that was larger than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 90 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 140,000 gain. Revisions to the prior two months’ reports added a total of 114,000 jobs to the employment count in February and March.
Steve Benen: After the discouraging jobs report a month ago, many were eager to see the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning to see whether the jobs market would bounce back or continue to deteriorate.
For now, it looks like the former. The U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs in April, more than expected, and overall unemployment rate dropped to 7.5%, its lowest point in four-and-a-half years. As is usually the case, there was a gap between the two major sectors – America’s private sector added 176,000 jobs last month, while spending cuts caused the public sector lose 11,000 jobs.
…. February was revised up from 268,000 jobs to 332,000, making it the single best month for job creation since 2005 (excluding temporary Census hiring). March was also revised up, from 88,000 to 138,000. In other words, as of this morning’s report, the previous two months added an additional 114,000 jobs we didn’t previously know about.
Paul Krugman: …. Today’s full-scale freakout over a decent jobs report is a sight to behold …. it’s ridiculous to imagine that the Obama administration could arrange (on short notice, no less) to cook the jobs numbers. The sheer logistics would be impossible, plus these are civil servants who have to live under both parties.
…. The thing is, although such antics are funny in a way, they’re also menacing. By attacking anyone who presents awkward facts, the right exerts an intimidating effect. It won’t get the BLS to retract today’s jobs report, but it might bully news organizations into avoiding objective economic analysis, and maybe even into blurring their reporting right now.
Greg Sargent: Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee has drawn national attention to Ryan’s Medicare plan. One measure of this: Rob Zerban, the Democrat challenging Ryan for his House seat in Wisconsin, has been able to raise some $770,000 for his race — outraising Ryan himself.
According to the Zerban campaign, 84 percent of his contributions come from outside Wisconsin, underscoring the intensity of feeling among Democrats nationally towards Ryan and his plan.
In this context, the new ad that Zerban is set to run against Ryan is worth watching….
National Journal: President Obama’s ad-makers may have to pay royalties to Clint Eastwood after a remarkable two-minute Chrysler commercial that aired on the biggest of all stages – the Super Bowl – and gave a pretty good preview of what the president’s reelection commercials might look like. At the very least, the ad and Eastwood’s powerful narration make it much, much more difficult for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney to keep pushing his line that Washington should have let the automakers go into bankruptcy.
And don’t think that Team Obama wasn’t watching the Super Bowl along with millions of other Americans and immediately grasped the boost they could get from the commercial. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer quickly tweeted “Saving the America auto industry: something Eminem and Clint Eastwood can agree on.” Senior strategist David Axelrod tweeted “Powerful spot. Did Clint shoot that, or just narrate it?” Former White House aide Bill Burton tweeted, “Clinton Eastwood #winning.”
ABC: ….. Fifty percent of Americans in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since spring. Fifty percent say he deserves re-election, better than Bill Clinton at the start of his re-election year and as good as George W. Bush a month before he won a second term. And Obama now leads Romney among registered voters by a slight 51-45 percent, the first time either has cracked 50 percent in a series of matchups since spring.
Two chief factors are at play. One is the economy’s gradual but unmistakable improvement, marked by the newly reported January unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, the lowest since a month after Obama took office. The president’s approval rating on handling the economy, while just 44 percent, is its best in 13 months.
Monday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Tuesday: PBO will host the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration and its partners are taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects. At the fair, the President will view exhibits of student work, ranging from breakthrough research to new inventions, followed by remarks to an audience of students, science educators and business leaders on the importance of STEM education to the country’s economic future.
Wednesday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Thursday: PBO will host Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy at the White House.
Friday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Michael Tomasky (Daily Beast): It was somewhere between hilarious and pathetic to watch Republicans respond to the positive jobs report last Friday. Some friends and I were counting the minutes until some Republican started casting aspersions on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles and releases the data. Sure enough, by early Friday afternoon, Tea Party Congressman Allen West was saying (on the basis of no evidence of course) that “Americans need truth, not these number games.” West’s comment suggests a desperation that will spread if future reports are as good as last week’s, which raises the question of what the Republicans will do next to try to wreck the economy.
…. There are decent and honorable individual Republicans. Probably many of them. I even know some. But as a collective entity – as a party and a movement that includes the media wing and the base that boos a gay soldier at a debate and cheers executions – they are toxic destroyers, their minds infected by the idea that any cooperation with the president for the sake of the country is the moral equivalent of Munich (yes, with all that analogy implies). They will do anything. Nothing could be more just than to see a surprisingly low unemployment rate come November, with Republicans still insisting that black is white and that governance equals capitulation, and the public rewarding them accordingly.
USA Today: With U.S. forces still fighting in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has chosen to mark the end of the Iraq War with something more modest than a ticker-tape parade – a state-dinner-like event at the White House later this month feting a select group of combat veterans and their spouses or guests.
The core theme is the common fighting man or woman, said Douglas Wilson, Pentagon public affairs chief. The intent is for those invited – with guests, numbering more than 200 – to represent the 1.5 million who fought in a nine-year-war that left nearly 4,500 dead and 32,000 wounded, he said.
“The dining room that night will look like the America that served in Iraq,” Wilson said. “State dinners honor heads of state and I think the feeling was that this type of dinner is an appropriate way to honor men and women who … merit the same degree of respect as a head of state,” he said. The black-tie White House event to be called “A Nation’s Gratitude” may be unprecedented, Wilson said.
Washington Post: President Obama will announce details Friday for a $1 billion Veterans Job Corps that the White House says will put up to 20,000 veterans to work over the next five years on projects to preserve and restore national parks and other federal, state and local lands.
….. Obama proposed the corps in his State of the Union address last month, describing it as “enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.”
From the White House: “President Obama and the First Lady will welcome Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and his wife, Samantha Cameron, to the White House for an Official Visit with a State Dinner on March 13-14, 2012….”.