Finance Column » Your Money This Week » Still waiting for Superman

Still waiting for Superman

By Gregg Fields ·
Monday, February 7, 2011
Posted 10 am ET

It was hard to escape the word ''super'' last week.

How could we, with nonstop Super Bowl coverage kicking off two weeks before the actual Packers-Steelers game did?

However, to the relief of nonfootball fans, the term wasn't always referencing the looming championship match (appropriately Roman-numeraled, given the sport's gladiatorial allure).

Rather, pundits were describing the economic recovery in terms usually reserved for the Man of Steel himself. And we don't mean Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Indeed, it doesn't take x-ray vision to see the rebound. Corporate profits are rising faster than a speeding bullet. Stocks are stronger than a locomotive. And the recent jump in consumer spending could leap tall buildings in a single bound, metaphorically speaking.

Then Friday, the unemployment report landed like a lump of kryptonite. The government said a miniscule 36,000 jobs were added in January. It showed the limits of an economic superpower's super powers.

Some were consoled that the official jobless rate slipped to 9 percent from 9.4 percent. That was largely because you're not unemployed if you've stopped searching fruitlessly.

Others said inclement weather chilled the labor market. It's true the best reality programming on the air right now is the Weather Channel. As one wag noted, if Lewis and Clark left today, they'd find ice skates more useful than canoes. Maybe Al Gore should take a breather.

Still, blaming meteorology seems based on cloudy evidence. Unemployment has been high every winter, spring, summer and fall for a couple of years now. How can seasonal factors be the cause?

There remains hope that hiring, like a superhero, will take to the skies soon. And without question the advances the economy is making are welcome.

But, as this job-starved recovery shows -- and every football fan knows -- you can gain a lot of yardage and still come up short at the goal line.

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