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Tuesday, February 7

Things Are Not O.K.

Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)

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By Paul Krugman, The New York Times
06 February 12

n a better world - specifically, a world with a better policy elite - a good jobs report would be cause for unalloyed celebration. In the world we actually inhabit, however, every silver lining comes with a cloud. Friday’s report was, in fact, much better than expected, and has made many people, myself included, more optimistic. But there’s a real danger that this optimism will be self-defeating, because it will encourage and empower the purge-and-liquidate crowd.

So, about that jobs report: it was genuinely good, certainly compared with the dreariness that has become the norm. Notably, for once falling unemployment was the real thing, reflecting growing availability of jobs rather than workers dropping out of the labor force, and hence out of the unemployment measure.

Furthermore, it’s not hard to see how this recovery could become self-sustaining. In particular, at this point America is seriously under-housed by historical standards, because we’ve built very few houses in the six years since the housing bubble popped. The main thing standing in the way of a housing bounce-back is a sharp fall in household formation - econospeak for lots of young adults living with their parents because they can’t afford to move out. Let enough Americans find jobs and get homes of their own, and housing, which got us into this slump, could start to power us out.

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