Every month at about this time, just a day before the Bureau of Labor Statistics unveils what it calls "The Employment Situation," we have a friendly office pool (we each bet 25 cents) on the unemployment rate and the net employment gain or loss figure. As a glass-half-empty kind of guy, I won a few of these bets when we were in what Paul Krugman calls the "oh-God-we’re-all-gonna-die period" of the recession, but I've been losing steadily as things get better.
I thought we'd hear 9.3 percent unemployment last Friday (March 4). It was 8.9 percent.
I didn't reveal any of this in my professional reporting (my job is to write "just the facts, ma'am"), but I did note how folks were cheering a 0.1 percentage point decline from 9.0 percent -- which most people don't know is not statistically significant.
A whoop also went up for the net 192,000 jobs added to the economy in February 2011 (I'd bet 50,000) -- even though one group calculated that even at that lofty rate the labor force won't get back to pre-recession levels until 2019 .
Never mind the details. The net job gain was announced with the words "job creation" in the press. These words go to the heart of this post.
If you believe the economic mythology of most major newspapers -- even the Wall Street Journal, which knows better, indulges in it -- new jobs are "created" every time this sort of things happens.
Way back when John F. Kennedy was a senator running for president, Sister Catherine Agnes had something to say about this -- and it still resonates with me today, even as an agnostic: the only being who makes something out of nothing (e.g., creates) is the one we humans call God, Allah, etc., whose existence I, of course, seriously question. Yet here are the major newspapers telling us that someone -- "employers" -- creates jobs, not in heaven, but right here in our own back yard.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the saints and angels! (Sister's curse.)
This lauded economic Creator is also called an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist, an investor ... whatever. He (it's usually still a he) inhabits the pantheon of the real religion of the United States, which is not Christianity (sorry, Religious Right), but ... drum roll ... the worship of Money, Wealth, and all the Power and Sex it can get you.
Just a thought to ponder as you rush to encourage the Creator by spending your cash as fast as you get it to fuel the economy.