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September 9, 2013

Jobs Report Brings Mixed News on U.S. Economy

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Last week’s report on jobs and unemployment in the U.S. had, “a little bit of something for everyone,” said economist Lisa Lynch of Brandeis University.

While employers added 169,000 new jobs last month, and the unemployment rate slid from 7.4 to 7.3, the picture isn’t entirely rosy.

While the number of jobs added was positive news, most of those jobs were in low-paying industries like retail, restaurants and hotels. In contrast, well-paying industries like finance and information actually shrank.

There are other worrying signs. A jobs report from earlier this summer was revised down by 74,000 jobs, and the overall percentage of people either working or looking for work is down.

“We’re down to a labor force participation rate that we haven’t seen since 1978,” said Lynch.

She attributes some of this drop in participation to retiring baby boomers, “But we’re also seeing young people either not going into the labor market or delaying entry into the labor market.”

Warm up questions:
  1. What kinds of things do economists study?
  2. How do we measure the “health” of the U.S. economy?
  3. Do you think that our economy is doing well or doing poorly and why?
  4. What is a “baby boomer” and what impact do you think they have on the economy?
Discussion questions
  1. Why are economists still worried about the overall economy when unemployment rates have dropped?
  2. If we value well-paying jobs over lower-paying ones- in terms of a sign of economic health- what do we need to do in education to prepare more people for these higher-paying jobs?
  3. What ways has the state of the U.S. economy personally affected you or your family and friends?
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