Council of Economic Advisers Blog

  • An America Built to Last: Strengthening Economic Security in Retirement

    In his State of the Union message last week, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an America that’s built to last—where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. Today, the Departments of Treasury and Labor are taking steps to strengthen economic security for our nation’s seniors by giving Americans greater investment information and access to more choices to plan for a secure retirement. These steps will be of particular importance to women, who tend to live longer and have fewer retirement assets and lower retirement income than men. 

    The Department of Labor is taking action to require 401(k) plan providers to better disclose the cost and nature of the services they provide, while Treasury and the IRS are announcing steps that will ease regulatory barriers in the market for annuities and other forms of lifetime income. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has prepared a detailed report describing the significance of today’s actions, which can be accessed here

    Today’s announcements complement previous Administration initiatives to make retirement more secure for American families. In September 2009, President Obama announced expanded opportunities for automatic enrollment in retirement savings plans. The President has also championed an automatic IRA legislative proposal through which tens of millions of workers without access to a workplace retirement plan would be automatically enrolled in IRAs through payroll deposit contributions, while remaining free to opt out. And the Administration has proposed easing requirements on the timing and amount of distributions from retirement accounts for many retirees, reducing the compliance burden and providing elderly Americans with greater control over their retirement assets.  

  • The Employment Situation in January

    Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007. Most importantly, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year, and take the additional steps that President Obama proposed in his State of the Union address to create an economy built to last.

    The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point to 8.3%, from a high of 10% in October 2009. The drop in unemployment over the month was entirely due to employment growth, as the labor force participation rate remained constant, once new population weights are taken into account.  The unemployment rate has fallen by 0.8 percentage point in the last 12 months. Private sector payrolls increased by 257,000 jobs and overall payroll employment rose by 243,000 jobs in January. Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 23 straight months, for a total of 3.7 million payroll jobs over that period. In the last 12 months, 2.2 million private sector jobs were added on net.  Nonetheless, we need faster growth to put more Americans back to work.

    Sectors with net job increases in December included professional and business services (+70,000), manufacturing (+50,000), leisure and hospitality (+44,000), health care and social assistance (+29,700), and construction (+21,000).  Government lost 14,000 jobs.

    The monthly employment and unemployment numbers can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report; nevertheless, the trend in job market indicators over recent months is an encouraging sign.

    January 2012 Private Sector Jobs Chart

  • Advance Estimate of GDP for the Fourth Quarter of 2011

    Today’s report shows that the economy posted its tenth straight quarter of positive growth, as real GDP (the total amount of goods and services produced in the country) grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of last year. For 2011 as a whole, GDP rose by 1.7 percent, raising the level of real GDP 0.7 percent above where it was at the start of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007.  While the continued expansion is encouraging, faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the recent downturn and to reduce long-term unemployment.

    Positive contributions to real GDP growth in the fourth quarter included consumer spending (1.5 percentage points) and fixed investment (0.4 percentage point).  Overall government purchases fell (4.6 percent), with substantial declines in Federal defense spending (12.5 percent) and State and local spending (2.6 percent). 

  • Chairman Alan Krueger Discusses the Rise and Consequences of Inequality at the Center for American Progress

    At 10:00 ET on Thursday, January 12, 2012, President Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Alan B. Krueger delivered remarks on “The Rise and Consequences of Inequality” at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.  

    In his prepared remarks, Chairman Krueger said: "The rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades has reached the point that inequality in incomes is causing an unhealthy division in opportunities, and is a threat to our economic growth. Restoring a greater degree of fairness to the U.S. job market would be good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for the country."

    Read Chairman Krueger’s remarks.

    See the related charts as a PDF

    See the related charts on slideshare

  • The Employment Situation in December

    Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007.  Most importantly, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year, and take other steps the President has proposed in the American Jobs Act.

    Private sector payrolls increased by 212,000 jobs and overall payroll employment rose by 200,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since February 2009. The drop in unemployment over the month was mostly due to employment growth, not lower labor force participation. The unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 percentage point in the last 12 months. Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 22 straight months, for a total of 3.2 million payroll jobs over that period. In the last 12 months, 1.9 million private sector jobs were added on net, more than in any year since 2005. Nonetheless, we need faster growth to put even more Americans back to work.

    Sectors with net job increases in December included transportation and warehousing (+50,200), health care and social assistance (+28,700), retail trade (+27,900), manufacturing (+23,000), leisure and hospitality (+21,000), and construction (+17,000).  Local governments lost 14,000 jobs and state government employment was unchanged.

    The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

     

  • Chairman Alan Krueger Discusses the Economy at the World Affairs Council of Charlotte

    At 12:45 ET on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, President Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Alan B. Krueger delivered his first speech as Chairman at the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, in Charlotte, NC. 

    Dr. Krueger’s remarks were on “Finding Economic Certainty in an Uncertain World,” where he discussed the risks the US economy faces, the strengths of the US economy, and his belief that there is no amount of uncertainty that we cannot conquer by relying on the durable strengths of what is certain in America.

    Read Dr. Krueger's remarks here.