ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Joining us now to talk about today's jobs numbers is Alan Krueger. He's the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Welcome.
ALAN KRUEGER: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Is it fair to say that the good news here, the lower unemployment rate is produced by bad news, so many people leaving the workforce and that 96,000 jobs in a month is a discouraging jobs report?
KRUEGER: Well, any reduction in the unemployment rate is a good thing for the economy. But I think we need to keep our eye on the ball, which is that we need faster job growth. Each month I say, don't make too much out of one month's movements. It's useful to look at the pattern of data coming in and recent months as well.
And we now have seen 30 months in a row of private sector job growth, 4.6 million jobs added. But given the size of the hole created by the deep recession that started at the end of 2007, we need to take steps to strengthen the economy and create more jobs.
SIEGEL: But the job growth figure that you've mentioned and that the Democrats cited in Charlotte is private sector jobs. Isn't that gain substantially undermined by public sector job losses at the state, local and federal levels?
KRUEGER: This recovery has faced headwinds from job losses at the state and local government level, which are unprecedented in a recovery. We have lost - since job growth began a couple of years ago, over two years ago, we have lost just over half a million state and local government jobs, a large number of them, school teachers. And the president proposed in the American Jobs Act to create a fund to help state and local governments keep more teachers on the payroll, help them keep more police and firefighters on the payroll, and that's the kind of medicine that the economy needs. But in spite of the losses in the public sector, the private sector has continued to heal from the deep recession, and, as I mentioned, has added 4.6 million jobs over the last two and a half years.
SIEGEL: You've said be cautious about single-month reports, look for the trends. Isn't the trend this year weaker monthly gains of jobs than we were witnessing last year? Isn't the trend going in the wrong direction?
KRUEGER: You know, numbers do move around quite a bit month to month, and they're going to get revised. I think what's important is that we've had 30 months in a row of private sector job growth. There are steps we can take to strengthen the recovery, but this recovery has been resilient. The job market has shown that it has weathered some serious headwinds that were created by the crisis itself. And I think it's most important that we continue to take the steps that we can take to strengthen and continue the recovery.
SIEGEL: Absent some big new additional jobs program being approved by the Congress and, say, absent a third round of the quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve, what do you see on the horizon? Do you see trends that would naturally maintain slow job growth? Are there big problems you're looking at next year? Or do you see cause for a potential acceleration of job growth in the economy?
KRUEGER: Well, to me, what's most important is to continue the expansion. Since the end of the most recent recession, which according to the National Bureau of Economic Research ended in June 2009, we have added more than three times as many jobs as were added in the same period since the end of the previous recession, the recession in the early 2000s, which ended in November 2001. Or to put it another way, we're more than 2 million jobs ahead of where we were in the recovery from the recession in the early 2000s.
SIEGEL: But the job loss, of course, in the most recent recession was much greater than in the 2001 recession. So you have a much steeper climb out of the hole.
KRUEGER: Absolutely. And we're not satisfied even though we are doing better than we were in the most recent recovery. And we certainly understand because so many jobs were lost in the recession, particularly in 2008, there's a very deep hole that we need to overcome, which is why the president is so committed to pursuing actions to speed up job growth such as by helping state and local governments keep more teachers and first responders on the job and by creating an infrastructure bank to help invest more in our ports and roads and highways to put more construction workers back to work.
SIEGEL: Alan Krueger, thank you very much for talking with us.
KRUEGER: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Mr. Krueger is the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.