Viewpoint: The Art of Badmouthing Good Jobs News

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If there’s one thing that Americans for Prosperity won’t tolerate, it’s prosperity.

That was the message from the group’s leader following this morning’s economic news: a better-than-expected employment report, and the upward revision of figures for the prior two months. “Reckless spending, higher debt, and ever-higher taxes are not helping Americans get back to work,” roared Tim Phillips, president of AFP.

That would be news, of course, to the 171,000 people who started picking up paychecks last month. But the AFP, which is an anti-Obama — to say the least — antigovernment, Ayn Rand/Friedrich Hayek-flavored advocacy group, is having none of it. This job growth is bad because it’s not their kind of job growth, even though it is: All of the growth came from the private sector; governments shed jobs.

(MORE: The U.S. Economy Adds 171,000 Jobs in October, but Challenges Remain)

The Chamber of Commerce, which represents the nation’s employers, isn’t all that thrilled either. “The 171,000 net new jobs created last month were unanticipated, but we shouldn’t be fooled by this number,” said America’s bosses. You mean, fooled into thinking that 171,000 new jobs is worse than not having 171,000 new jobs? And furthermore, the Chamber pointed out, “for people remaining in the workforce average hourly earnings went down.” Might we suggest that the Chamber’s members have something to do with the wage figure? You want to help, give your workers a raise.

As economists without an ax to grind have explained, today’s number is more evidence that job recovery from the financial meltdown is going to drag on for years. The figure has to go north of 200,000 a month to get unemployment nearer to the 6% rate that used to be considered “full employment.” Instead, the slow/middling/steadily-improving (pick your adjective based on your politics) job growth environment is what happens when an unprecedented economic collapse meets unprecedented structural change in the economy. As my colleague and co-writer Rana Foroohar explained in a TIME cover story earlier this year, since 1990 post-recession job recovery has been stretching out well beyond the historical average range. This isn’t about policy; it’s about reality. And neither a President Romney nor the current office holder can do very much to change it.

(MAGAZINE: The Wimpy Recovery)

Today’s figure is being spun a million ways in the political blender. But it is one datum on one day. There will be others, so take it in stride. “While the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent just as analysts predicted, underlying employment fundamentals are moving in the right direction,” noted Cornell University’s Institute for Compensation Studies.  What an insanely reasonable statement.  And if you were one of the people who found a job last month, congratulations. Try not to act disappointed about it.