THE job market is showing slow and steady improvement. In February, 227,000 jobs were added. It was the 24th straight month of private-sector job gains, and the third month in a row of gains well above 200,000, the best three-month stretch in nearly two years.
The jobless rate is still 8.3 percent and at today’s slow pace of improvement, it will still take nearly five years before the economy returns to a prerecession jobless rate of 5 percent.
By then, Americans will have endured nine years of employment weakness, which for millions will translate into permanently lost opportunities for wage growth and irreversibly diminished living standards.
Washington needs to do more to help.
Instead, Congress seems poised to do less.
The federal highway bill, a prodigious job creator, is stalled in the House.
Congressional Republicans have also consistently rejected calls for more aid to states, despite the 485,000 jobs lost by public employees over the past two years, and 6,000 layoffs in February alone.
Now, some House Republicans are gearing up to demand even deeper budget cuts. Another round of budget fights could hobble business and consumer confidence and more cuts would hobble demand.
President Barack Obama has continued to push job-creation efforts. He announced plans for a $1 billion network of regional manufacturing hubs. It is a worthy idea, but one that will require congressional cooperation.
He also said that the administration would use $45 million from existing resources at the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies to support investments in advanced manufacturing equipment and research.
That does not need Congress’ approval, but moving beyond the pilot stage would.
The latest job growth numbers are encouraging. But there is a lot more climbing to do.