Today is what I call "Jobs Friday", the most important monthly economic report from my perspective. The Labor Department reported only 115,000 jobs were added in April, well short of the forecast of 165,000 jobs by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. This weak jobs number did not stop the unemployment rate from dropping to 8.1% from 8.2% in March. Before you begin to celebrate the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009 you need to read a quote from the Wall Street Journal's Paul Vigna:
"Hey, the unemployment rate's down! That's good, right? Well, it's good if you consider more people dropping out of the labor force a good thing. The Participation rate fell to 63.6%. Less people working means less people contributing to economic growth, no matter what the official unemployment rate says."
Paul is referring to the fact that the primary reason the unemployment rate is dropping is another 522,000 people, who have not been able to find jobs, were considered to have left the work force in April. Take a good look at this chart that shows the percentage of Americans who are working continued its downward decent to fresh lows in April.
Shifting gears, this is a critical weekend in Europe as France and Greece both have elections. In France, Francois Hollande has a slight lead over Nicolas Sarkozy heading into the weekend. Hollande has promised to raise taxes, including a 75% rate on the rich, more government spending and wants to renegotiate the European treaty that was agreed to several months ago that mandated European countries get their spending under control.
Put differently, Hollande wants to double down on the same policies that were most responsible for the Euro crisis in the first place.