Friday’s jobs report from the Department of Labor shows that the U.S. added an impressive 353,000 jobs in January. Unemployment remained at just 3.7%. The unemployment rate has been under 4% for two straight years. That hasn’t happened since the 1960s, according to economic analyst Steven Rattner.
The Associated Press called the jobs report “surprisingly robust,” and wrote that the number of new jobs “far exceeded expectations.” That follows the report in January, which they called “surprisingly strong.” And reports from last fall that were also, well, “surprisingly strong.”
All this surprise seems to stem from economic analysts forecasting a recession in 2023. In October 2022, Bloomberg reported that a recession within the next 12 months was “effectively certain,” with the news outlet’s economic projection model putting the chance of a recession in the next 12 months at 100%. It was part of a drumbeat of downbeat reporting on the economy that battered down public sentiment despite increasingly rosy statistics.
Bloomberg needs new models. The Associated Press needs to stop acting surprised. Because even Fox News agrees that this economy is in the “Goldilocks” zone. This is as good as it gets.
Not only is the economy good now, but also virtually all the indicators show that it’s likely to stay that way. For six straight months, companies have increased their demand for office space. Demand rose nationally, with large spikes in New York City (up 38.9%) and Los Angeles (up 46.8%), reversing much of the decline that occurred during the pandemic.
If available office space is tight, retail space is even more scarce. As Axios reported on Wednesday, the vacancy rate for shopping centers is at a 15-year low. Retail spaces that a few years ago seemed as if they were heading for extinction are booming again, bolstered by rising consumer sentiment and surging applications for new small businesses. Even malls, which have suffered a massive decline over the last two decades, are staging a comeback.
The sharp demand for more office space and retail space comes as stock markets are reaching record highs. As NBC News notes, “last year’s surprisingly strong economic growth” means that the average 401k account added $107,700 by the third quarter of 2023. And the markets are still heading up.
All that good news is finally cracking through the doom and gloom of the recession-around-the-corner reporting. Consumer confidence moved up for the third straight month in January, with the Associated Press reporting Tuesday that levels are at the highest numbers in over two years.
That same Associated Press report also says that the 3.3% growth in the nation’s GDP seen in 2023 was “surprisingly strong.” Economic reporters seem to spend a lot of time being surprised.
As all this was happening, unions negotiated exceptional contracts that protected workers and provided significantly higher pay. And, just as a bonus, the United States is now producing record levels of energy. In fact, the U.S. has been a net exporter of oil and gas for two straight years—an all-time record stretch.
If Republicans were counting on bad-economy stories to bury Democratic chances in the upcoming election, they might need to think of something else. Because it sounds like President Joe Biden has already, to steal a phrase, “made America great again.” Only he’s done it without the racism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric—and without turning every national park into an oil refinery.
So what exactly is Donald Trump offering?
It is primary season, and Donald Trump seems pretty low energy these days. Kerry and Markos talk about the chances of Trump stumbling through the election season and the need to press our advantage and make gains in the House and Senate. Meanwhile, the right-wing media world is losing its collective minds about Taylor Swift registering younger Americans to vote!