The Guest Blog

Tony Fratto: Mulling 2 Jobs Reports


Economy watchers will actually be analyzing two "Jobs Reports" this weekend.

The first Jobs Report is the highly anticipated Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) monthly employment report released this morning. With an increase of 162,000 jobs announced in the March payroll report, we'll be digging deep into the numbers to discern whether the U.S. economy is truly rebounding, and the political and economic policy implications going forward.

The second Jobs Report involves the other Jobs -- Steve Jobs -- and whether his newest brainchild, the iPad, will revolutionize the media content experience of American consumers.

The iPad officially goes on sale tomorrow, and already people are lining up today to buy the hottest new product since...well, since some of Jobs' other recent brainchilds, like the iPod Touch and the Macbook.

The iPad, when all is said and done, may tell us more about America's economic future than all the data released by the government, because it will give us a clue about two of the more unique characteristics of the U.S. economy: the relentless capacity of American firms to design and deliver innovative products to the marketplace; and second, the heretofore relentless capacity of the American consumer to want to buy the newest, most innovative products.

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A fear during the recent Great Recession was that the capacity of both producers and consumers may have been irrevocably impaired. Deleveraging at firms and households during the financial crisis and severe recession has led many to conclude that the U.S. economy was set for a long-term period of slow economic growth.

One new product won't alter that outlook on its own -- we're still facining lots of economic headwinds: credit availability and wage growth are concerns; household balance sheets remain impaired; and many Americans remain skittish about taking on new debt.

But every recession in modern American history has been characterized by the ingenuity of American firms to create new products that American consumers really want to buy. And it has always been that kind of consumer-satisfying dynamism that unlocks Americans' natural instincts to take risks, to further innovate and to grow.

In short, we really want neat and useful stuff, and we've always been willing to find the means to create and buy neat and useful stuff.

Jobs' iPad may or may not be the thing that does it, but I like the buzz around it this weekend, and I like the hopeful reminder it provides that there's still some life in the real engine of American economic growth.

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Tony Fratto is a CNBC on-air contributor and most recently served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary for the Bush Administration.