So Where Are the Jobs?

2009-11-5

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

America's economy has started to grow again. Now what about jobs?

The government says productivity jumped in July, August and September. That meant companies produced more with fewer workers. Also, new claims for unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest number since January.

People waiting in line at a job fair in Livonia, Michigan
People waiting in line at a job fair in Livonia, Michigan
But eight million jobs have disappeared since the recession began in December of two thousand seven.

Jack Strauss at Saint Louis University in Missouri says recent recoveries have been slow to create jobs.

JACK STRAUSS: "Historically, during our last two recessions in ninety-one and two thousand one it's taken twenty-three months in ninety-one and about thirty-six months, three years, in our last recession in two thousand one for the United States to regain the jobs lost in the recession."

Experts debate the reason for these so-called jobless recoveries. But Professor Strauss says a banking crisis is especially hard to recover from, because there is less money to lend to support growth. Banks have been holding bigger safety reserves.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve kept its target rate near zero for overnight loans between banks. The central bank said levels are likely to remain "exceptionally low ... for an extended period."

Low interest rates and growing federal deficits have weakened the dollar. But that also lowers the price of American exports, which could help drive job creation. Yet where exactly will future jobs come from?

Investor Warren Buffet says America's "future prosperity" depends on its rail system. On Tuesday his Berkshire Hathaway company agreed to buy the nation's second-largest railroad, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The forty-four billion dollar deal is Berkshire's biggest ever.

The Obama administration is also putting money into transportation to speed recovery. A program that paid Americans to buy new vehicles with higher fuel economy lifted sales for automakers. Ford just reported a profit of almost a billion dollars for July through September.

A second government program -- a tax credit for first-time home buyers -- has helped the housing market. These two programs fueled a lot of the recent economic growth.

But economist Jack Strauss says credit conditions threaten the main engine of job growth since two thousand one -- small businesses.

This week, CIT, a lender to small and medium sized businesses, sought bankruptcy protection from its creditors so it can reorganize. Taxpayers will likely lose more than two billion dollars in federal rescue money.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, available online at 51voa.com. I'm Mario Ritter.