Friday, February 6, 2009

Unemployment Surges Again. Stimulus Debate Continues.

In an alarming trend, the recent unemployment report was yet again worse than economists expected. January nonfarm payrolls fell by a seasonally adjusted 598,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected to see 525,000 job losses, considerably less than what was actually reported. In addition to the 598,000 job losses reported for January, the BLS also revised the job loss tally for December from 524,000 to 577,000. Sadly people are growing accustomed to this sort of news, but that doesn’t make this latest report any less grim. "The only 'positive' of today's report is that these ugly numbers put even more pressure on policymakers to finally agree on fiscal measures to stop the downward spiral of the economy," wrote Harm Bandholz, economist for UniCredit Markets as reported by MarketWatch.

This latest report just might be what is needed to get the new stimulus bill passed. I for one did not expect there to be as much debate as there has been. Although Democrats are only a couple votes away in preliminary projections, they want to ensure that the bill is in a form that is guaranteed to pass when it’s time to vote. It will be interesting to see how the bill evolves as the parties negotiate. Both sides want to see something passed, and so eventually something will get passed in one form or another. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has given the group of 20 bipartisan senators working to put this bill together a deadline of today to resolve their differences, according to CNN.

President Obama is pushing the Senate hard to get something passed, stressing that time is of the essence. “If we do not move swiftly to sign [the act] into law, an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe," Obama was quoted as saying by CNN. "This is not my assessment. This is not Nancy Pelosi's assessment. This is the assessment of the best economists in the country. This is the assessment of some of the former advisers of some of the same folks who are making these criticisms right now."

Obama’s goal has been to have the legislation on his desk and ready to be signed into law on Presidents Day, February 16th, according to CNN. There is still a lot of work to be done on the bill, but I imagine that they will have something ready by the end of the weekend, if not by the end of the day.

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