In what must be history's strangest socialist dictatorship, hiring by private companies just hit a record high. Meanwhile the government is still not hiring anybody.
Private employers added 192,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday, making up all of the economy's job growth for the month. Federal, state and local governments added nada. There are now 116 million people working in the private sector, topping the previous peak set in January 2008. Federal, state and local governments, meanwhile, employ 21.8 million people, down from a high of nearly 23 million in May 2010.
The two charts below tell the whole story: The first shows the rebound of the private sector. The second the non-rebound of the public sector. (Story continues after charts.)
That's pretty much how it has gone throughout the grinding recovery from the Great Recession: Private hiring has been slow but steady -- despite right-wing warnings that the private sector will collapse under the weight of President Barack Obama's allegedly socialist policies -- while austerity has led to government job cuts that have helped keep the recovery frustratingly slow.
Both private and public hiring are still far too low. If the economy were living up to its full potential, there would be about 5.7 million more people on private payrolls, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on labor issues. The chart below, from EPI, is based on jobs data through February. It doesn't include March's 192,000 jobs, which closed the gap just a smidgen. (Story continues after chart.)
Some conservatives blame Obama for the weak recovery, saying uncertainty about government regulations and Obamacare have hurt hiring. Most economists, though, agree that the recovery has suffered from the huge overhang of private-sector debt that built up ahead of the financial crisis and recession, which has taken years to work off. Austerity and a too-timid approach to stimulating the economy haven't helped.
Meanwhile, most of the private-sector jobs in the recovery have been low-paying, keeping wage growth anemic even as corporate profits have soared.
A new record high in private-sector jobs is better than nothing, but it's far from the end of the story.