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June 12, 2010

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Posted: 11 Jun 2010 11:03 PM PDT

"Dealing With Chermany"

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 02:07 PM PDT

Paul Krugman says it's time to get tough with Germany and China:

Dealing With Chermany, by Paul Krugman: So here's where we are: China has done nothing to change its policy of massive currency manipulation, and its exports are surging. Meanwhile, Europe is going wild for fiscal austerity. Angela Merkel says that budget cuts will make Germany more competitive — but competitive against whom, exactly?
You know the answer, don't you? Yep: everyone is counting on the US to become the consumer of last resort, sucking in imports thanks to a weak euro and a manipulated renminbi. Oh, and while they rely on US demand to make up for their own contractionary policies, they'll lecture us on how irresponsible we're being, running those budget and current account deficits.
This is not going to work — and the United States has to take steps to protect itself.
Let's start with China. Back in April we were told to lay off on the currency manipulation charges; the grownups would work something out with China. How's that going, exactly?
Yes, threatening an anti-dumping duty would be a big step, and might pose some risks. But doing nothing is not an acceptable option. The economic recovery is in great danger of stalling — and if it does, the consequences will be a lot worse than a diplomatic tiff.
And it's also important to send a message to the Germans: we are not going to let them export the consequences of their obsession with austerity.
Nicely, nicely isn't working. Time to get tough.

Do Census Jobs Count?

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 12:15 PM PDT

I was on Fox Business News this morning talking about where the good jobs will come from in the future (response from Brian Sullivan at Fox), so I'm a bit behind in terms of having something new to post. As filler until I do, here's something I posted a few days ago at MoneyWatch:

Do Census Jobs Count?: When writing about the recent employment report, most analysts and reporters focused on the number of private sector jobs created in the previous month, only 20,000, while netting out the 411,000 temporary jobs created by the Census.

Does that mean the temporary Census jobs don't count? It depends upon the question that is being asked, but yes, these jobs do matter.

When we are trying to determine if the private sector has picked up steam, and if so how much, netting out the Census jobs is correct. For example, when I've been asked when the economy could be considered in recovery, I've always answered it's when the private sector can sustain robust economic growth on its own without the government's help through stimulus packages devoted at the general economy or financial bailout programs. When private money begins moving off the sidelines and is back chasing investment opportunities, when firms and businesses are expanding, and so on, we'll know that the recovery is on solid footing. An economy where most of the employment and other economic activity is being driven by government spending and bailouts is not in recovery, it is still healing, and separating private sector from government jobs is one of the measures we can use to make this determination.

But the Census jobs still count, and they are important. I've argued that the government has paid too much attention to growth policy at the expense of stabilization policy, and that it has been too shy about jobs which can be stigmatized with the "make work" label. We have emphasized economic growth over stabilization, i.e. we have mostly focused on jobs that create infrastructure and future growth, and not enough on jobs that provide valuable services to the community but do not necessarily impact long-run growth. There's a difference between maximizing GDP growth and maximizing short-run employment opportunities, and we could have done -- and can still do -- much better at short-run job creation.

Census jobs are a good example of job creation which does not have much to do with long-run growth, but still contributes in an important way to easing the effects of the recession and helping the economy to recover. There are 411,000 people who weren't earning income before that are now on the Census payroll, and it's safe to assume that most of this income is spent on consumption. The extra consumption is extra demand, and that extra demand has multiplier effects that ripple through the economy enhancing business optimism, This makes businesses more likely to expand employment and undertake new investment opportunities. Thus, these jobs help to ease current conditions for the unemployed, they help to end the recession sooner, and, indirectly through their multiplier effects, these jobs help to generate growth and additional employment.

These "make work" jobs are important, they count, and we should be doing a lot more things like this. It's too bad we don't have several more things in need of counting -- nearly a half million jobs for each census would help the unemployment problem a lot. Unfortunately, however, these jobs will largely disappear in the coming months (see here) and it's not clear what will replace them. But counting isn't the only thing we need done, and if we look hard enough we can find plenty of valuable things for the unemployed to do while we wait for the private sector to begin hiring robustly once again.

[Related: "Private Sector 'Make Work' Jobs?"]

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