Playing the numbers with jobs

While even al-Qaida has confirmed the kill of Osama bin Laden without seeing photos and has vowed to turn our happiness into sadness and mingle our blood with our tears by apparently attacking our trains now that they’ve nailed our planes and automobiles (at least at the gas pump), our attention today turns to the domestic front.

More precisely the job market (remember those bygone days when apps meant job applications and not smartphone apps?).

OK, did we have good news or bad news on the economy in April? Depends on how you play the numbers.

The U.S. economy added 244,000 jobs in April, far more than had been expected, but the gains weren’t enough to keep the unemployment rate from ticking up two-tenths of a point to 9 percent.

Personally, I think it was good news for two reasons: One, unemployment inched up slightly simply because as folks heard that people were hiring, more of them returned to the job market. Two, the private sector added 268,000 jobs last month.

Yes, it’s the public sector that’s shedding jobs as governments at all levels trimmed 24,000 of them in April. For those who want the size of government to shrink like jeans washed in very hot water and then shoved into a very hot dryer, that was good news.

For the jettisoned government employees now up close and personal with that 9 percent unemployment number, that was bad news.

Of course when it comes to economic matters, numbers aren’t supposed to add up. Which is why you have to be a tightrope walker to balance your checkbook.