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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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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 »

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 »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More »

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?

Read More »

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?

Read More »

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?

Read More »

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 »

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 »

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

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

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

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

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

Read More »

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 »

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

Read More »