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Cruel Recovery: Few Jobs, Big Corporate Profits

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Hundreds of applicants attend the New York City Startup Job Fair, April 8, 2011.
Hundreds of applicants attend the New York City Startup Job Fair, April 8, 2011.
Spancer Platt/Getty Images

Looks like decent news for a change on the economy: the U.S. added way more jobs than expected in April, a sign the recovery might be cleared for takeoff. The Labor Department counted 244,000 new jobs last month, all in the private sector (i.e. no Census workers, etc.). True, the unemployment rate ticked up a little, from 8.8 to 9 percent – in a healthy economy it would be 5 or 6 – but you can view that as a positive, since it means more people are getting hopeful and jumping back into the job market. (Or maybe not: could just mean the number crunchers undercounted last time.)

So, is the economy poised for a major rebound? Not likely. GDP grew a lame 1.8 percent in the first quarter, the Times notes, while a still-weak housing market, high gas prices, and belt-tightening by government and consumers are not exactly a recipe for renewed prosperity. But, says an economist Gad Levanon, "Once constraints in these hard-hit sectors loosen, overall job recovery is likely to pick up pace.” (Begging the question ...)

Meanwhile, in the other America, Fortune just released its annual Fortune 500 list. One big jaw-dropper: the combined profits of the 500 companies "increased by 81% — $318 billion — this year, the third largest percentage gain in the list’s history." Nice recovery if you can get it.

Apropos the Fortune numbers, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein laments: "It’s not just tempting to say that the recovery has been good for firms and bad for people. ... The economy, by the way, is growing. It’s been growing for two years now. But for most people, it’s not getting better."

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