Economic Recovery Assured by Completely Arbitrary Round Number

As you may or may not be aware, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached 14,000 today for the first time since 2007. The answers to your follow-up questions — (1) what does that mean, and (2) why do I care? — are “nothing, basically,” and “you don’t.” This 14,000 is just a number, arbitrary and round, and not even all that meaningful in comparison to 2007’s 14,000, since it’s not adjusted for inflation.

But there is some symbolism in reaching that number, even though it’s functionally equivalent to getting the Dow to 13,999 or 14,001.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Chart

Dow Jones Industrial Average data by YCharts

Joe Weisenthal has a good rundown of all the positive economic data we’ve gotten this week, including this morning’s labor survey, which revealed that we added 157,000 jobs in January, with an unemployment rate that ticked up to 7.9 percent. That’s good in context — three years ago, when we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, the idea of getting back up to 7.9 percent seemed far-fetched — but it’s not objectively something to cheer about. We still have a massive long-term unemployment crisis, with 4.7 million people having been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. And although the Fed has committed to monetary easing until the employment picture improves, we still need lawmakers to recognize the unemployment situation as a bona fide crisis, not a minor and temporary setback that should take a backseat to austerity and deficit reduction.

Likewise, having the Dow at 14,000 is impressive only in context. Yes, the 30 companies that make up the Dow have gotten back up to their 2007 prices. But it should be higher, and it will be — provided our policy-makers don’t cut the recovery off at the knees.

Economic Recovery Assured by Round Number