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Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow. From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Executive Director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute, and between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of Deputy Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Articles by Jared Bernstein

November jobs report shows clear, virus-related slowing

December 4, 2020

Payrolls were up 245,000 last month, the slowest month for job gains since the jobs recovery began in April. The jobless rate fell from 6.9 to 6.7 percent, but this was due to a decline in labor market participation, not more jobs (in the households survey from which the unemployment rate is drawn, employment fell). Job changes in virus-affected sectors, like restaurants (down 17,000 jobs), suggest that the spiking virus caseload is hurting job growth. 
Overall, as the figure shows, payrolls remain 9.8 million jobs down from their pre-recession peak. If the pace of gains doesn’t speed up from that of November, it would take about 3 years to get back to the pre-pandemic peak. But this is too low a bar because it doesn’t factor in job growth that would have occurred had we remained on the

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October jobs: better than expected but a long way to go

November 6, 2020

Payrolls grew by 638,000 last month, and the unemployment rate fell sharply, by a full percentage point, to 6.9 percent. The report reveals a job market that’s healing, but at a slower pace than earlier in the year and with a long way to go to get back to full employment. Even with the large drop, the October jobless rate remains twice that of the pre-crisis rate.
Government jobs fell (by 268,000) last month, but because this is partially related the cutting back of decennial Census jobs, a clearer signal of underlying labor demand comes from the private sector, which added 906,000 jobs. That’s a decent clip, but in May and June, private sector gains rebounded at a pace of 4 million per month; since then, the pace has slowed to 1 million. At this rate, the private sector will be back to

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September 2020 jobs report: Slowing jobs gains and a huge spike in long-term unemployment

October 2, 2020

Payrolls grew by 661,000 last month, well below expectations, and the jobless rate ticked down to 7.9 percent, driven not by job gains, but by people leaving the labor force. Long-term unemployment spiked sharply–in fact, its largest one-month spike on record–and shifts continue from temporary to permanent job losses. In other words, though the labor market continues to improve, it is doing so at a slower pace, and the risk of increasing numbers of job seekers stuck in long-term joblessness is rising.
Payrolls continue to climb back as commerce gradually recovers, but the pace of gains has slowed, as shown in the figure below. Private sector gains last month were stronger, at 877,000, as local education jobs fell sharply, by 231,000. At least part of that loss is due to the impact of Covid

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September 2020 jobs report: Slowing jobs gains and a huge spike in long-term unemployment

October 2, 2020

Payrolls grew by 661,000 last month, well below expectations, and the jobless rate ticked down to 7.9 percent, driven not by job gains, but by people leaving the labor force. Long-term unemployment spiked sharply–in fact, its largest one-month spike on record–and shifts continue from temporary to permanent job losses. In other words, though the labor market continues to improve, it is doing so at a slower pace, and the risk of increasing numbers of job seekers stuck in long-term joblessness is rising.
Payrolls continue to climb back as commerce gradually recovers, but the pace of gains has slowed, as shown in the figure below. Private sector gains last month were stronger, at 877,000, as local education jobs fell sharply, by 231,000. At least part of that loss is due to the impact of Covid

Read More »

Unemployment down but so is pace of job gains

September 4, 2020

Payrolls were up 1.4 million in August and the unemployment rate fell sharply from 10.2 to 8.4 percent according to this morning’s labor market update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payrolls remain 11.5 million below their pre-pandemic peak in February and the jobless rate is still more than twice its February rate of 3.5 percent.
In years that ends in a zero, the federal government temporarily hires many workers to field the decennial Census. It is thus important to look at private sector payrolls to get a more accurate read on underlying labor demand. Private payrolls rose 1 million in August, as temporary Census hires rose by about 240,000.
Turning back to the bigger picture, the figure below shows average monthly job gains or losses in recent months. The massive job losses that

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Unemployment down but so is pace of job gains

September 4, 2020

Payrolls were up 1.4 million in August and the unemployment rate fell sharply from 10.2 to 8.4 percent according to this morning’s labor market update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payrolls remain 11.5 million below their pre-pandemic peak in February and the jobless rate is still more than twice its February rate of 3.5 percent.
In years that ends in a zero, the federal government temporarily hires many workers to field the decennial Census. It is thus important to look at private sector payrolls to get a more accurate read on underlying labor demand. Private payrolls rose 1 million in August, as temporary Census hires rose by about 240,000.
Turning back to the bigger picture, the figure below shows average monthly job gains or losses in recent months. The massive job losses that

Read More »

July jobs: Labor market keeps ticking, but virus surge is slowing pace of gains

August 7, 2020

The labor market kept ticking in July, but the re-surging pandemic led to slower hiring across most industries. Payrolls rose 1.8 million last month, compared to average monthly gains of 3.8 million in May and June, and payrolls remain 12.9 million jobs down from their February peak (see figure). The jobless rate ticked down to 10.2 percent, but remains highly elevated–that’s still higher than the peak of the last recession–and the share of the prime-age (25-54) population working remains almost 7 percentage points below Feb’s level.

Because of an unusual interaction between pandemic-induced layoffs in local schools and the BLS seasonal adjustments (explained below), the overall job gain is biased up in July. Looking at private sector employment avoids this bias, and payrolls there rose

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July jobs: Labor market keeps ticking, but virus surge is slowing pace of gains

August 7, 2020

The labor market kept ticking in July, but the re-surging pandemic led to slower hiring across most industries. Payrolls rose 1.8 million last month, compared to average monthly gains of 3.8 million in May and June, and payrolls remain 12.9 million jobs down from their February peak (see figure). The jobless rate ticked down to 10.2 percent, but remains highly elevated–that’s still higher than the peak of the last recession–and the share of the prime-age (25-54) population working remains almost 7 percentage points below Feb’s level.

Because of an unusual interaction between pandemic-induced layoffs in local schools and the BLS seasonal adjustments (explained below), the overall job gain is biased up in July. Looking at private sector employment avoids this bias, and payrolls there rose

Read More »

A strong jobs report but big holes remain and we’re not outta the viral woods.

July 2, 2020

Payrolls popped up by 4.8 million in June, as commerce continued to gradually reopen across the country. Most industries (75 percent) added jobs, and millions of furloughed workers were called back, taking the unemployment down to 11.1 percent from 13.3 percent in May.
The strong report begs the question: are we out of the virus-infected woods? Has the pandemic-induced recession ended as we enter a strong bounce-back to a solid expansion?
The answer is as best uncertain and, based on recent state-level spikes in the virus, likely “no.” That is, absent a second wave of the virus, the economy has probably bottomed out, and yes, more labor market reports like June’s would restore a job market that would start to reliably repair the deeply damaged fortunes of working families.
But the hole in

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A strong jobs report but big holes remain and we’re not outta the viral woods.

July 2, 2020

Payrolls popped up by 4.8 million in June, as commerce continued to gradually reopen across the country. Most industries (75 percent) added jobs, and millions of furloughed workers were called back, taking the unemployment down to 11.1 percent from 13.3 percent in May.
The strong report begs the question: are we out of the virus-infected woods? Has the pandemic-induced recession ended as we enter a strong bounce-back to a solid expansion?
The answer is as best uncertain and, based on recent state-level spikes in the virus, likely “no.” That is, absent a second wave of the virus, the economy has probably bottomed out, and yes, more labor market reports like June’s would restore a job market that would start to reliably repair the deeply damaged fortunes of working families.
But the hole in

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Hey, Senators! The case for extending Unemployment Insurance benefits is air tight.

June 26, 2020

There’s new information out this morning that should be a critical input into ongoing negotiations in the U.S. Senate. Senators are debating whether the economy needs another relief package, and, if so, what should be in it, and this morning’s income report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is virtually yelling what the answer should be.
The report shows that aggregate income—all the wages and profits and interest payments, etc. that go to U.S. households—fell by a large, but expected, 4 percent in May. More importantly, spending was up a robust 8 percent; in an economy that’s 70 percent consumer spending, that’s an important boost.
But how do you get falling income and higher spending? Is it higher earnings coming out of May’s jobs report? Is it people spending out of their savings?

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Hey, Senators! The case for extending Unemployment Insurance benefits is air tight.

June 26, 2020

There’s new information out this morning that should be a critical input into ongoing negotiations in the U.S. Senate. Senators are debating whether the economy needs another relief package, and, if so, what should be in it, and this morning’s income report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is virtually yelling what the answer should be.
The report shows that aggregate income—all the wages and profits and interest payments, etc. that go to U.S. households—fell by a large, but expected, 4 percent in May. More importantly, spending was up a robust 8 percent; in an economy that’s 70 percent consumer spending, that’s an important boost.
But how do you get falling income and higher spending? Is it higher earnings coming out of May’s jobs report? Is it people spending out of their savings?

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Figures behind our “targeting the Black rate” essay

June 14, 2020

Janelle Jones and I have a new piece coming out wherein we explain why and how the Federal Reserve should target the Black unemployment rate in setting monetary policy.
The first figure to which we refer is the share of quarters since 1972 (when the Black jobless rate data start) that the unemployment rate for different racial groups has been below CBOs estimate of the “natural rate.” Whites enjoyed full employment labor markets almost 60% of that time. The Black rate, conversely, has never fallen below the estimated full employment rate (which I’ve, for the record, long argued is biased up, meaning these figures are optimistic).
Source: BLS, CBO
The next figure relates to our discussion of who benefits most from tight labor markets. It shows that pre-crisis, the pace of nominal Black

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Figures behind our “targeting the Black rate” essay

June 14, 2020

Janelle Jones and I have a new piece coming out wherein we explain why and how the Federal Reserve should target the Black unemployment rate in setting monetary policy.
The first figure to which we refer is the share of quarters since 1972 (when the Black jobless rate data start) that the unemployment rate for different racial groups has been below CBOs estimate of the “natural rate.” Whites enjoyed full employment labor markets almost 60% of that time. The Black rate, conversely, has never fallen below the estimated full employment rate (which I’ve, for the record, long argued is biased up, meaning these figures are optimistic).
Source: BLS, CBO
The next figure relates to our discussion of who benefits most from tight labor markets. It shows that pre-crisis, the pace of nominal Black

Read More »

Surprise! One report does not a new trend make but reopening may be occurring sooner than expected.

June 5, 2020

Before even getting to the facts of the case on today’s very surprising jobs report, let me share a few insights.
–One jobs report does not a new trend make.
–Keynes was right.
–Economists are terrible at catching turning points.
–Don’t ignore levels for trends.
In one of the more surprising jobs reports I’ve seen, payrolls rose–as in, went up!–last month by 2.5 million and the unemployment rate fell from just below 15 percent to 13.3 percent (though, as I’ll show, racial disparities may be resurfacing). These monthly reports are always noisy, so we don’t want to completely rethink our priors, but expectations were for unemployment to shoot up to about 20 percent and jobs to tank by another 5-10 million.
So, what happened?!
Well, first of all, let’s start with some context. The payroll

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Surprise! One report does not a new trend make but reopening may be occurring sooner than expected.

June 5, 2020

Before even getting to the facts of the case on today’s very surprising jobs report, let me share a few insights.
–One jobs report does not a new trend make.
–Keynes was right.
–Economists are terrible at catching turning points.
–Don’t ignore levels for trends.
In one of the more surprising jobs reports I’ve seen, payrolls rose–as in, went up!–last month by 2.5 million and the unemployment rate fell from just below 15 percent to 13.3 percent (though, as I’ll show, racial disparities may be resurfacing). These monthly reports are always noisy, so we don’t want to completely rethink our priors, but expectations were for unemployment to shoot up to about 20 percent and jobs to tank by another 5-10 million.
So, what happened?!
Well, first of all, let’s start with some context. The payroll

Read More »

The US job market catches the virus and crashes.

May 8, 2020

Due to the shutting down of the American economy to control the spread of the coronavirus, the bottom fell out of the job market last month. I’ve been writing up monthly jobs reports for decades, and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to this. Employment gains that were made over almost a decade vaporized in two months.
Payrolls collapsed by 20.5 million in April, by far the worst month on record for a data series that begins in 1939. Combining March’s losses of 870,000, revised from -701K, payrolls are down by 21.4 million over the two months. This takes the level in April—131.1 million total, nonfarm jobs—down to the lowest level since February of 2011, meaning in two months, the job market shed almost a decade worth of employment gains (see figure).

In the last recession, the

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The US job market catches the virus and crashes.

May 8, 2020

Due to the shutting down of the American economy to control the spread of the coronavirus, the bottom fell out of the job market last month. I’ve been writing up monthly jobs reports for decades, and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to this. Employment gains that were made over almost a decade vaporized in two months.
Payrolls collapsed by 20.5 million in April, by far the worst month on record for a data series that begins in 1939. Combining March’s losses of 870,000, revised from -701K, payrolls are down by 21.4 million over the two months. This takes the level in April—131.1 million total, nonfarm jobs—down to the lowest level since February of 2011, meaning in two months, the job market shed almost a decade worth of employment gains (see figure).

In the last recession, the

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At some point, a lot of economically vulnerable people will need to get back to work.

April 30, 2020

Yesterday, we learn the economy contracted in the last quarter at the fastest rate since 2008, when we were in what used to be called the Great Recession. As this decline captured only a tiny share of the time we’ve been in shutdown, it’s the tip of the iceberg that’s sitting atop an economy still in deep freeze. This morning, we learned that another 3.8 million people filed claims for Unemployment Insurance. That’s 30 million claims, which are a fair proxy for layoffs, in six weeks. In a month-and-a-half, we’ve experienced more than three times the layoffs we had in the whole of the recession formerly known as “great.”
The unemployment rate implied by these numbers is 18 percent, much higher than any previous peak.
Such numbers complement the info from a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll

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At some point, a lot of economically vulnerable people will need to get back to work.

April 30, 2020

Yesterday, we learn the economy contracted in the last quarter at the fastest rate since 2008, when we were in what used to be called the Great Recession. As this decline captured only a tiny share of the time we’ve been in shutdown, it’s the tip of the iceberg that’s sitting atop an economy still in deep freeze. This morning, we learned that another 3.8 million people filed claims for Unemployment Insurance. That’s 30 million claims, which are a fair proxy for layoffs, in six weeks. In a month-and-a-half, we’ve experienced more than three times the layoffs we had in the whole of the recession formerly known as “great.”
The unemployment rate implied by these numbers is 18 percent, much higher than any previous peak.
Such numbers complement the info from a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll

Read More »

The tip of the wave: Jobs report shows large losses, but predates the worst of it

April 3, 2020

Payrolls fell by 701,000 in March, their first monthly decline in almost 10 years, and the jobless rate ticked up to 4.4 percent (from 3.5) as the coronavirus and efforts to contain it pounded the U.S. labor market last month. Because of the timing in the surveys in this report, it only picks up the front end of tsunami of layoffs that occurred in the second half of March, when initial claims for Unemployment Insurance rose by almost 10 million, an increase most economists would have considered inconceivable before this crisis. But the report clearly identifies the tip of the wave.
The surveys were fielded in the middle of March, and thus better reflect conditions in the first half of the month, when containment measures were just taking hold. Commerce, travel, and broad consumer activity

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The tip of the wave: Jobs report shows large losses, but predates the worst of it

April 3, 2020

Payrolls fell by 701,000 in March, their first monthly decline in almost 10 years, and the jobless rate ticked up to 4.4 percent (from 3.5) as the coronavirus and efforts to contain it pounded the U.S. labor market last month. Because of the timing in the surveys in this report, it only picks up the front end of tsunami of layoffs that occurred in the second half of March, when initial claims for Unemployment Insurance rose by almost 10 million, an increase most economists would have considered inconceivable before this crisis. But the report clearly identifies the tip of the wave.
The surveys were fielded in the middle of March, and thus better reflect conditions in the first half of the month, when containment measures were just taking hold. Commerce, travel, and broad consumer activity

Read More »

A wounded Trump is an especially dangerous Trump: Thoughts on his proposed economic pivot.

March 24, 2020

When I first heard that Trump and some other conservatives were making the case for punting on containment of the virus in the interest of reflating the economy, I ignored it because it made no sense to me. It still doesn’t, but from what I’m seeing, the idea seems potentially serious enough to warrant a response.
There are at least three reasons this pivot idea is nonsensical.
First, Trump may admire and aspire to emulate authoritarian leaders, but he has no such powers. He did not close my workplace and he cannot reopen it. To be sure, I’m not discounting his bully pulpit and he surely has the capacity to undermine containment efforts with deadly consequences by telling people to get back to work and go out to restaurants, etc. But especially if many more people get sick—the predictable

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Yes, this is an emergency. No, that doesn’t justify a $500 billion Trump/Mnuchin slush fund.

March 22, 2020

By Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker
While the indicators are lagging, the U.S. economy is in a recession that will very likely be extremely deep. It’s likely that real GDP falls at double-digit pace in the quarter that begins next month and the unemployment rate more than doubles. If that sounds implausible, history shows that in sharp downturns, the unemployment rate takes the elevator up and the stairs down.
To their credit, after a slow start Congress appears to have grasped this urgency and is working around the clock on what may turn out to be the largest stimulus package in our history, with a price tag of $1-2 trillion, or 5-10 percent of GDP (the Recovery Act was $800 billion over two years, roughly 2 percent of GDP). Given that fighting the virus essentially calls for putting the

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Jobs report: Calm before storm as the virus hasn’t hit the job market…yet

March 6, 2020

In yet another upside surprise to the U.S. labor market, payrolls grew strongly last month, up 273,000, well above expectations. Upward revisions to earlier months show that contrary to what many have expected, the monthly pace of job gains has accelerated in recent months. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.5 percent, but wage growth, which has been remarkably unresponsive to strong labor demand, remains a soft spot, stuck at 3 percent, year-over-year, just slightly ahead of consumer inflation which is running at around 2.5 percent.
Calm before the storm
As our smoother shows, averaging monthly payroll gains over various time spans, over the past 3 months, payrolls are up 243,000 per month. Over the past year, they’re up less than that: 201,000. Given that most labor market analysts

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Rockefeller Foundation launches an equity/opportunity investment targeting low-income people/places.

February 25, 2020

It’s takes a village–a robust suite of policies and institutional supports–to reconnect a lot of people and places who’ve long been left behind to overall economic growth.
There are roles for government at all levels, with the federal gov’t poised at the top, both in terms of setting policy precedents and financing sub-national initiatives (remember, states can’t run deficits). There are roles for market-oriented, or pre-tax and transfer policies, like persistently tight labor markets and minding the impact of imbalances in credit markets and trade accounts. There are roles for tax and transfer programs, and not just counter-cyclical roles, but investment roles as well. And there are roles for philanthropic foundations, roles that are especially important in ensuring that existing programs

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Another solid jobs report, with lots of evidence that there’s still room-to-run in this labor market.

February 7, 2020

Employers added 225,00 jobs last month as the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 3.6 percent, largely due to more people entering the job market, yet another sign that there’s still room-to-run in this long labor-market expansion. Wage growth, a perennial soft spot in recent jobs reports, ticked up slightly to a yearly rate of 3.1 percent, around where it has been for much of the past year. That’s ahead of inflation, last seen running at 2.3 percent, but the fact that the wages have not accelerated suggests some degree of slack remains in the job market (other wage and compensation series show roughly similar stability).
Our monthly smoother pulls out trends in job growth by averaging monthly gains over 3, 6, and 12 months. The pattern it shows is interesting and revealing. Over the

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Dr. King knew that full employment raises the price of prejudice

January 20, 2020

There are so many reasons to celebrate the life, work, and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate today. The dimension I like to elevate is Dr. King’s profound understanding of the importance of full employment to the opportunities of black Americans. Remember, the full name of the March on Washington was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (my bold). A sign some of the marchers held that day told of a simple but powerful equation: “Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom.”
Dr. King’s insight was born of the recognition that racial discrimination by employers is costless in slack labor markets. With abundant excess labor, racist employers could handily indulge their prejudices. But when the job market tightens up and stays tight, that strategy

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2019: A robust year for job growth; less so for wage growth

January 10, 2020

Payrolls rose 145,000 last month, capping off a strong year for job gains with payrolls up 2.1 million over the year, an average of 176,000 per month. These are solid numbers, especially at this stage in a uniquely long expansion, but as we show below, their magnitude is well within historical context. In fact, in percentage terms, employment growth in 2019 posted the slowest growth rate (1.4%) since 2010. This, however, is to be expected, as such growth rates typically decelerate as recoveries grow older and the labor market closes in on full capacity (see data note at the end of this post).
The unemployment rate ended the year at 3.5%, a fifty-year low. Wage growth, however, disappointed last month, and has clearly decelerated in recent months, even at low unemployment. This important

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Back-up evidence for WaPo piece on most important econ lessons of the decade

December 23, 2019

Here are the companion figures to my WaPo piece today on econ lessons of the decade.
1) The unemployment rate can fall a lot lower than most economists thought without triggering inflationary pressures.

2) Budget deficits cannot be assumed to place upward pressure on interest rates.

3) Weak worker bargaining power has long been a factor driving inequality. In the last decade, the increasing clout of certain employers has joined the mix.
Source: NY Times
4) Progressive health care reform, wherein the government plays a larger role in coverage and cost control, works.
Source: Paul Van de Water, CBPP
5) [Lesson re-learned] Trickle-down tax cuts don’t work.
Source: Goldman Sachs
6) Antipoverty programs don’t just reduce poverty today; they improve the outcomes of their beneficiaries many

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