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Welcome to the era of the boring economy

This stock trader sure looks bored. It's OK, buddy. We don't blame you.
This stock trader sure looks bored. It's OK, buddy. We don't blame you.
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In terms of excitement, this was one of the more "meh" reports in recent memory. Employers added 209,000 jobs last month — an okay number but nothing to get excited about.

And come to think of it, the word of the week in economics reporting has been "but." There's a caveat to every bit of positive economics news that has come our way. GDP grew at a surprisingly quick annual rate of 4 percent … but a huge chunk of it was in the volatile category of business investments in inventories. Wages started to climb faster … but they are far from normal growth rates. The Fed said it was encouraged by job growth … but also thinks it can (and must) do a lot more.

Add to that today's jobs report. July's was a "solid job report but not fantastic," in the words of PNC economist Gus Faucher in a commentary on Friday's numbers.

So things are positive, but semi-positive when you really look at it.

And there's no breakout economic sector. No industry seems to have taken the lead in boosting the labor market, or even to have altered its slow, steady upward post-recovery trajectory. (Though on that note, there is a positive development in that industries that were subtracting jobs for a while — like manufacturing and government — have stabilized.)

This isn't purely about the economy being boring, of course; if the economy were tanking again, it would most definitely be non-boring (but also scary as hell). What it is about is a recovery that has lately stubbornly refused to provide any definitively stellar news. Good? Sometimes. Moderately promising? Often. Fantastic? Almost never. It's not news that the recovery has been long and slow. But recent data seems to prove that even when the economy appears to be heating up, it's still just slightly north of tepid.

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