America is back, baby! Well, sort of. We've still got a lot of climbing to get back to our pre-pandemic economic levels, but today's jobs numbers are pretty sweet.

"Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 943,000 in July, and the unemployment rate declined by 0.5 percentage point to 5.4 percent," wrote the number crunchers at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in local government education, and in professional and business services."

You like pictures? Here, have a picture.

Courtesy BLS

Yes, this chart does trigger mild PTSD, like looking at photos of oneself in the hospital after a car accident. But let's not linger in the land of "OMG last spring was so freakin' terrifying!" Because look how far we've come! It is getting better, and next month when the kids go back to school, we'll probably see a decent chunk of people return to the labor force.


Let's check in with everyone's (my!) favorite wife and husband team of economists, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. Seriously, if you are a humanities type who got to adulthood and realized it might be good to know something about ECONOMY, check out their podcast Think Like an Economist.

Of course, the Delta variant is lurking out there like a menacing dorsal fin in the water, with Republican governors tossing out mask bans and anti-public health measures like chum. But if rational, vaccinated adults can hold it together despite these freewheeling psychopaths, we might just get out of this shit by 2022.

Which doesn't mean we're whole again. We're still "missing" all of the growth we would have had before the economy slammed into a brick wall in April of 2020, as Stevenson points out.

And while it's good to see huge numbers of leisure and hospitality sector workers back on the job (+380,000) and earning almost $2/hour more than they were two years ago ($16.47 as compared to $14.58), the economic recovery is going to rest on creating more higher-paying jobs that can support middle class families. Brass tacks, if people are living hand to mouth, they can't buy stuff from each other. (Yeah, yeah, capitalism is a rigged game. But until we implement something better ...)

The stock market is currently doing the happy dance, with the Dow and S&P 500 up after BLS released its numbers. (The tech-heavy Nasdaq is down a little bit as investors reallocate to retail and hospitality, as would be expected.) In fact, there's been a lot of dancing lately with all three of the major markets breaking record highs in the past month. As Forbes points out, the stock market fared better in the first six months of the Biden administration than it did after Trump had the "biggest" inauguration ever PERIOD.

Hey, remember when Donald Trump and his dipshit minions promised that the economy would tank under Biden?

"If I'm elected, the stock market will boom," blarbled Trump at the October 22 debate. "If he's elected, the stock market will crash. The biggest analysts are saying that."

You mean that asshole was lying? Shut the front door! Well, thank heaven we now have a president who understands that the stock market is not the sum total of the economy, and one can be booming while leaving vast swathes of the American electorate to scrape along in low-wage jobs, which is bad, actually.

Look, we're not out of the woods yet. And we're still living in a country with crippling inequality that cannot be sustained long term. But it is getting better, and on a muggy August Friday ... we'll take it.

[BLS July Jobs Report]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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