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Mood not joyous for most despite economic uptick

No wonder there is joy on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average has traded above 17,000 for the first time. On Main Street, however, the mood is not yet joyous.

Issued on the stock market’s last trading day before the Fourth of July, a stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs report calmed worries about the economic recovery.

To be sure, there was good news in the numbers.

Robust hiring in June helped to drive the unemployment rate down to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008 when the Great Recession burst the financial bubble in America.

Last month was the fifth in a row with job gains above 200,000, the best stretch since the high-tech boom of the late 1990s.

The Labor Department reported a robust 288,000 jobs were added in June as employers accelerated hiring and shook off the impact of a harsh winter and chilly spring.

“The economy has built momentum,” said President Obama, calling for “economic patriotism” on Capitol Hill to limit partisanship during this mid-term election year.

Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen.

Even though the economy seems to be headed in the right direction, millions of Americans remain disgruntled.

For good reason.

In the sixth year of the nation’s economic recovery, wages have yet to rise significantly. Average pay has increased just 2 percent a year during that span, roughly in line with inflation.

So most American workers — from Staten Island, N.Y., to Staten Island, Calif. — don’t feel any better off than they were during the worst recession in U.S. history.

The average hourly wage for private sector workers rose by just six cents in June to $24.45.

Millions of people feel as if they are just treading water, trying to stay afloat financially during lingering hard times.

Others know well that sinking feeling.

Less than 63 percent of U.S. adults are working or looking for a job, compared with 66 percent before the recession.

The number of long-term unemployed remains above 3 million. That’s half of what it was three years ago, but the worry is that many people have stopped looking for work.

Even so, the good news should not be overlooked.

It’s clear the nationwide drop in the jobless rate in June occurred because more Americans found work, not because job-seekers gave up looking.

In cities across the nation, where the recession decimated budgets, times seem to be changing.

Factory jobs have risen for 11 months in a row; factories added 16,000 workers last month.

In June, retailers added over 40,000 jobs. Restaurants and bars employed 32,800 more people. Financial and insurance firms increased their payrolls by 17,000.

“This has now become a textbook jobs expansion — it is both broad and accelerating,” said Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick, a consulting group.

More jobs mean more paychecks to spend, of course, which is good for both Wall Street and Main Street.

— The Staten Island (New York) Advance

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