Let me pick one of the hottest topics: employment (and unemployment).
Thanks to someone who provided all of one link in the blog post that inspired me, I see that Obama’s Truth Team has a pretty graph on job creation (including the year before Obama became President):
I can quibble as to whether the most recent numbers are just estimates that inevitably get adjusted downward, but no matter. Let’s stack up those bars, using the numbers from the Obama Truth Team graph itself (to be fair, I’ll omit January 2009):
Covering the period from February 2009 – April 2012:
Total down: 4.212 million
Total up: 4.247 million
Net position in May 2012: +35 thousand
….in a country the size of the U.S., that’s pretty much within error bars of having broken even. They have to use statistical sampling to give us this estimate, after all.
Of course, that’s since the beginning of Obama’s administration. I’m not counting all those jobs lost since 2007. But hey — Bush’s fault. Can’t expect Obama to have helped the country grow out of that hole…. even if he may have gotten elected under that assumption.
But let’s think about those numbers. Who really cares about the number of jobs…especially given some of us (howdy!) hold down more than one? Don’t we really care about whether a person able (and willing) to work is employed?
And isn’t the population growing? Wouldn’t you need better than breakeven to get back to where you were before?
Indeed. So let’s look at the labor participation rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics have this stat going back to 1948, and I picked all sexes, all races, and a specific age range — ages 25 – 54. I figure that these are the prime working years, so I shouldn’t be seeing distortions from college attendance or early retirement. This should give us a measure of what employment is really like. This particular data series is LNU01300060, if you want to check. And hey, here’s my publicly available spreadsheet with which I made the following graphs.
I love looking at long time series. First, you can see the relatively low participation rates of women, as the starting rate in 1948 was about 63%. There’s a long slide upwards as the rate goes from very few women working to lots, and it looks like the transformation is pretty much complete by 1990. In 1990, women born in 1935 would have just popped out of the age range in question. Given my own mother-in-law was born in the late 1930s, and has worked outside the home since before my husband was born, I don’t find it that surprising that this “revolution” occurred before the Boomers.
So let’s zoom in and start our look at 1990:
Hmmm, an interesting 20+ years there. The line is wiggly, by the way, because I chose the non-seasonally-adjusted data. I prefer my data to be massaged as little as necessary.
Notice that the peak participation rate, at about 84.5%, occurs around the beginning of 2000…. ah, the dot-com peak. Those were fun times.
Man, doesn’t look so hot since 2000, does it?
Let’s zoom in again, now starting in 2000:
Yeah. The story doesn’t look good for Obama. Remember, this is the prime working years: ages 25 – 54. I’m not counting the youngsters or the retirees (unless you want to make the case that a bunch of public employees taking early retirement is a good thing.) The most recent “peak” occurred in October 2008, and has been nothing but a downward slide since.
Now, for comparison’s sake, the last time the labor participation rate was below 81.3% (the April 2012 participation rate) was August 1985.
So sure, talk about the number of jobs. But the absolute number of jobs is somewhat meaningless unless you give us the size of the potential labor force to compare against.
Oh, and if you want to claim my numbers are wrong?
And show your damn work.