For the first time in a long time we have a non-terrible jobs report indicating a 162,000 increase in payroll employment. If the labor market were already in decent shape, this is the kind of number you would be looking to see — a pace a bit above ordinary growth in the workforce. For an economy mired in recession it’s still far too low to make a serious dent in the unemployment rate.
A very interesting element, however, is that about a quarter of these new jobs are temporary work related to the Census. That’s obviously not going to be an enduring source of labor market strength. But it does work nicely as a convenient stimulus measure. If people get Census jobs, they’ll have a bit more money to spend. And if they spend a bit more money, that creates employment opportunities for others. In essence, the Census hiring is operating like a classic countercyclical public works initiative.