The U.S. Labor Department Friday reported that only 21,000 new jobs were created in February, far fewer than had been expected.
Since August, the U.S. economy has created 364,000 jobs, an average of 60,000 jobs per month. The February figures were far below that number, and 100,000 jobs less than what had been expected. Katherine Utgoff, the commissioner of labor statistics, says the economy needs to create 125,000 new jobs monthly just to absorb the new workers entering the labor force.
Treasury Secretary John Snow said he was disappointed by the jobs report, but he told an interviewer that the economy is poised to create jobs, because economic growth is proceeding at a fast pace.
President Bush is seen as politically vulnerable on the job issue, since his administration is almost certain to have presided over a net job loss from 2001 to 2004.
"Not only has this administration not created jobs, it is not been sympathetic to the unemployed. There are eight million Americans who are unemployed," said Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic congresswoman from New York.
Thus far, in President Bush's term, three million jobs have been lost, even though the economy has been recovering strongly from the 2001 recession. The unemployment rate stands at 5.6 percent. Ms. Utgoff, the labor commissioner, told a congressional committee, the Joint Economic Committee, that the labor force is changing, and that laid off workers are now likely to remain unemployed for a longer period of time.
"Over the last few decades the people who say they are on layoff and expect to be recalled to work has decreased," she said. "And the number of people on permanent layoff has increased. So, we do know that there has been a structural change where just going from your old job and then returning to it is not the typical kind of unemployment."
Ms. Utgoff says, while job growth is low, economic productivity is growing at a good rate, in excess of four percent. Productivity, output per worker, is rising as firms are getting increased output from a smaller workforce. Capital investment, mainly computer technology, is also boosting productivity.