Administration Blames Job Losses on Snow; Critics Say Economic Uncertainty Stalls Job Creation

By Penny Starr | March 5, 2010 | 6:52 PM EST

Christina Romer, who heads President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, has blamed bad weather on continued job losses in February, even if the 36,000 jobs lost were far less than the 100,000 figure some economists predicted as a result of record snow storms in some parts of the country. (AP Photo)

( – Obama administration officials are touting the less than 100,000 jobs that some economists predicted could have been lost last month because of record snow storms, but critics charge that the 36,000 people who became unemployed in February is no cause for celebration.
The jobs report by the Department of Labor released on Friday also saw the unemployment rate remain at 9.7 percent.
“These disappointing unemployment numbers should send another clear message to the administration and majority leaders that their unsustainable policies of bigger government, higher debt and soaring spending continue to have a detrimental effect on our economy,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a House Small Business Committee ranking member, said in a statement he issued after the report’s release.
“Although the White House has tried to blame winter storms for another month of record job losses, the American people are not fooled,” Graves said. “They know that Washington’s misguided plans for a government takeover of health care and a national energy tax are really at fault for the stalled economy.”
“American businesses cannot thrive when faced with the constant threat of more taxes, regulations, and government intervention,” Graves said. “In order to spur job creation, we need a new direction in Washington. It is time for Congress and the Administration to work together to craft common sense, sustainable policies that will encourage job creation and put our economy back on the path to prosperity.” 
Ahead of Friday’s announcement, Goldman Sachs predicted that the storm might skew the job loss number by as much as 100,000 – a prediction that was embraced by officials in the Obama administration.
“The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics,” Larry Summers, director of the White House's National Economic Council, said in an interview with CNBC. “So it's going to be very important ... to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends.”
In a statement posted on her blog on Friday, Christina Romer, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, stood by her earlier claim that bad weather could skew the February numbers, even the much less than 100,000 figure some predicted.
“Payroll employment declined by 36,000, slightly more than last month,” Romer wrote. “However, as many analysts have discussed in recent weeks, the large snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic region in mid-February likely had a substantial negative impact on this number. 
“Someone who has a job but missed the entire pay period that included the 12th of the month because of the weather, and so did not receive a paycheck, is not counted as being on the payroll,” Romer wrote. 
The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the impact of bad weather on the February employment number was likely substantially negative. Importantly, negative weather effects this month would be expected to be counteracted next month, as workers who temporarily disappeared from payrolls because of the snow are once again counted,” she added.
But Romer also put a positive spin on the job loss number.
“Although the labor market remains severely distressed, today’s report on the employment situation is consistent with the pattern of stabilization and gradual labor market healing we have been seeing in recent months,” Romer wrote.
“As always, it is important not to read too much into any individual data release, positive or negative,” she said. “Because of the disruptions from the weather, this is especially true of today’s employment data. Although the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past year and appears to be continuing to improve, there will surely continue to be bumps in the road ahead.”
But Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement that the jobs report reflects the Democrats’ job-killing strategies. 
“Despite their spin, Washington Democrats have been absent when it comes to promoting policies that will spur strong and lasting private sector job creation,” Kline said. “They have piled a stunning amount of debt on our children and grandchildren while bombarding small businesses with the prospect of tax hikes and federal mandates. 
“Republicans are continuing to offer better solutions, from a no-cost jobs plan to a step-by-step approach to health care reform that will bring down costs and expand access to quality care,” Kline said. “Our goal is to provide meaningful relief for small businesses and American families that does not break the bank or grow the size, scope, or cost of the Washington bureaucracy.”