Talking Points

America's unemployed can't wait till 2023

The February jobs report is out, and it found 379,000 jobs were created last month, bringing the unemployment rate to 6.2 percent. That would be a decent number for normal times — but the U.S. is still some 9.5 million jobs down relative to how things were before the coronavirus hit. And as the White House Council of Economic Advisers pointed out on Twitter, at this rate it would take until about April 2023 to restore all those jobs:

Now, it will probably not be possible or even advisable to fully restore economic health so long as the pandemic is ongoing. Many people will not return to normal activities so long as they have not been vaccinated, and therefore bars, restaurants, concert venues, and so on will struggle. But that only underlines the case for passing President Biden's pandemic relief package as soon as possible, because it contains money to accelerate the vaccination effort, and other measures (like survival checks and a boost to unemployment insurance) to keep people solvent while that is happening.

More broadly, the U.S. has suffered over a decade of terrible growth going back to the financial crisis. As I have previously argued, there is every reason to get American balance sheets nice and fat so that when the pandemic does die down, the economy can surge back to strength very fast and, with any luck, undo some of that damage.