House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) responded cautiously to a question Monday about the controversy over interpretation of January’s jobs report, lauding progress made in adding new jobs to the marketplace but stressing that more can be done to encourage sustained growth.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 243,000 jobs in the first month of the year, the largest number since April 2011, and the unemployment rate fell from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent. This didn’t take into account those who have given up looking for work and former full-timers who have settled for part-time work to make ends meet. An analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies concluded, “Most of the shift of the past year is due not to the improvement in the labor market, but the continued drop in participation in the labor force.” More analysis from my former colleague Jim Pethokoukis.
I asked Cantor at the YG Network Summit whether he believed the jobs numbers were being spun, if the GOP had a strategy to counter that, and how the numbers would have an impact on the congressional and presidential elections this year.
“Anytime you add a quarter of a million job in a month, that’s a good thing,” Cantor said. “As far as new participants in the market and how that was being interpreted, I don’t know enough to tell you yes or no. I did see one study which indicated it was up until June that we saw a decline in the number of those participating in the job market and since then there’s been a leveling off.”
While positive about the added jobs, Cantor said there is still work to be done.
“Now, we can do a lot better and this economy has done a lot better in the past,” he said. “Back in the early ’80s, the early mid-’80s, when you saw us coming off a recession you had 300,000, 400,000 new jobs a month.
“If we’re going to retackle 21 million new jobs by the year 2020 we’re going to have to have a significant number of sustained job growth throughout this period,” he added, referring to the McKinsey Global Institute set of recommendations to regain full employment issued last year. “So we can do better.”