- - Sunday, May 5, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination next year has a big job ahead. The Democrats must find a way to repeal the first rule of campaign persuasion. “It’s the economy, Stupid.”

The monthly employment figures compiled by the Labor Department were out on Friday, and they’re stunning by anyone’s measurement. Even more important, the good news looks sustainable.

The overall unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent, down two-tenths of a point from the previous month’s number, and President Trump’s exuberant boast — “We’re the envy of the world!” — is hardly an exaggeration. That’s the best unemployment number in a half century.

Mr. Trump says the best is yet to come, and most economists agree. “We have entered a very strong and durable prosperity cycle,” says Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, and one of the president’s chief economic advisers. Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp., says “the broader economy remains on solid footing, meaning that coming months will see continued job gains and faster wage growth.”

The good news is reflected across every level of the population. Minority unemployment continues at record low levels; Hispanic unemployment, at 4.2 percent, is at the lowest ever, down from 13 percent in the Obama years. Unemployment has diminished to the vanishing point even for high-school drop-outs.



Another good sign is that wage growth has been highest in the low-wage industries. “This is an economy that is working for workers,” says Martha Gimbel, director of economic research for Indeed Hiring Lab. “Another astonishingly strong month of jobs growth shows the continued strength of this recovery. Jobs continued to grow fastest in middle- and high-wage industries, while wage growth was fastest in low-wage industries.”

This adds up to problems for the dozens of Democratic candidates who can’t wait to get on the hustings. It’s hard to base a campaign on the plight of victims when there’s a scarcity of victims. President Trump is pressing his feud with the Federal Reserve, arguing that a cut in short-term interest rates would be an after-burner for an economy seeking an orbit. The Fed is resisting, perhaps because an orbit may not be the best place for an economy. The healthy jobs picture, say most economists, and low inflation will reinforce the Fed’s wait-and-see strategy. Interest rates can always be cut if the economy sags and slows.

So far there’s no sign of that. The long stretch of months of steady growth in hiring has brought steady good jobs news across the population.The unemployment rate for women fell to 3.1 percent, the lowest since 1953. The April unemployment rate for Asians matched the record of 2.2 percent; the unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fell to 1.7 percent, a record that statistically can’t get much better as businesses compete for workers, cutting educational requirements, raising pay and counting on training whomever they can find.

The Democratic naysayers and scrooges always among us are looking for something to hang their doubts on, but the pickings are slim. Retailers are suffering. Stores are continuing to close and shoppers are going online after decades of retail expansion. Jeff Bezos and Amazon get richer. (Perhaps it’s fair to blame the decline of Main Street on The Washington Post.) The American population is aging and doesn’t need to buy the clothing, shoes and other goods it once did.

But confidence among consumers is returning with the robins and the dogwood and hints of redbud and azaleas to come, and spirits are soaring with sun and fair winds. Even Mr. Stupid, a nice enough fellow who has to be frequently reminded of what politics is about, understands the dilemma of the Democrats.

The gang of candidates continues to grow. Mayor Bill DeBlasio hinted Friday that he may join them soon, though it’s difficult to see what he thinks he has to offer the folks in flyover country. If nominated (which is not the way to bet) that would give the voters a choice between a New York Republican and a New York Democrat, a first. What the Democrats need is some bad news, but nobody (it says here) is rooting for that.

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