Jobs and Policy

At the start of the new decade, one in every ten Americans is unemployed. By broader measures of unemployment (including discouraged workers who may have stopped looking), nearly one out of every six people is unemployed or underemployed.

As bad as things are now, they might well have been worse, according to the latest stimulus jobs report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Some 1.5 – 2 million more people would be out of work now if the stimulus legislation (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or the ARRA) had not been passed and other steps taken for economic and financial stabilization and recovery, according to the CEA (whose estimates are in line with respected mainstream economists).

Do we need more fiscal measures - or is recovery coming anyway (but slower than we might like)? What targeted growth and employment measures would offer the greatest bang for the taxpayer buck? Would their cost be worth the fiscal price down the road – or can we do something now but offset it later (keeping in mind, we already have a lot to offset)?

These questions aren’t academic. Congress may soon return to these issues, picking up where the House left off in December when it passed H.R. 2847, "The Jobs for Main Street Act, 2010".

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just put out a new report with useful discussion for weighing these key issues. (Table 1 is quite useful.) The Director’s blog also has a dandy graph which features some possible measures and their bang for the buck in the creation of employment:

Cumulative Effects of Policy Options on Employment in 2010 and 2011,
Range of Low to High Estimates

To think more about the fiscal side, start with our paper “Good Deficit/Bad Deficit”. For details on ARRA and other stimulus measures to-date, see our