Herald-Whig View

Robust jobs report sign of good times, at long last

Posted: Mar. 13, 2017 12:35 pm

THE February jobs report released last week is the latest indicator that the United States is experiencing one of its most positive economic periods ever.

Employers added a robust 235,000 jobs in February and raised pay at a healthy pace, making it all but certain that the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates this week. The Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate dipped to a low 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent.

The government report offered more evidence that the economy remains on solid footing nearly eight years after the Great Recession ended.

Moreover, the stock market's performance has also been impressive. The Dow Jones industrial average grew by more than 166 percent from 2009 through early this year, while the S&P 500, a broader measure, tripled. Each continues to set new all-time highs.

However, little more than half of Americans were invested in the stock market in 2016, according to Gallup. That's among the lowest rates the polling company has ever found, meaning nearly half missed out on the big gains.

Meanwhile, housing developments that stalled throughout the country during the 2008 Great Recession have either since been finished or made way for even newer developments. Since the depths of the financial downturn, more than 15 million Americans have gone back to work, and the country enjoyed the biggest annual increase in wage growth in 2015 in its history.

Admittedly, there are still too many rural areas nationally that can no longer count on strong manufacturing and retail industries to provide good-paying jobs. Fortunately, the manufacturing sector in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri has proved to be more resilient, with several expansions announced in recent months that promise significant financial investments and more jobs.

While some continue to feel economic pain, there are plenty of indicators strongly suggesting we are moving in the right direction, and it's important to acknowledge progress when it's achieved.

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