Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Good Signs in February Jobs Numbers

In yet another sign of economic improvement, the latest jobs report showed that the U.S. added 227,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent. The Hill reports that employment numbers from previous months have also been revised up:

The number is slightly better than expected and represents the third straight month the economy added more than 200,000 jobs. That’s good news for President Obama, who has seen his reelection chances improve with the better labor market.

The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised figures for December and January up from 203,000 to 223,000, and from 243,00 to 284,000, respectively.

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In yet another sign of economic improvement, the latest jobs report showed that the U.S. added 227,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent. The Hill reports that employment numbers from previous months have also been revised up:

The number is slightly better than expected and represents the third straight month the economy added more than 200,000 jobs. That’s good news for President Obama, who has seen his reelection chances improve with the better labor market.

The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised figures for December and January up from 203,000 to 223,000, and from 243,00 to 284,000, respectively.

The reason the number of jobs increased but the unemployment rate was unchanged is because more Americans are flooding back into the jobs force, after dropping out due to the lack of available work. This is another indication that the economy is at least on the path to recovery.

However, the fact that the unemployment rate remains above 8 percent is still a political burden for Obama, and he’s likely to go into the general election with the highest unemployment rate of any president since World War II.

Republican leaders are applauding the latest jobs figures, but note that Obama is still pursuing policies that will slow the recovery and fail to reduce the national deficit.

“Three years of ‘stimulus’ spending, tax hikes, and excessive government regulations have left us with unemployment that has remained above eight percent for 37 consecutive months, and Americans are increasingly worried about the amount of debt owed to countries like China,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner in a statement this morning. “Meanwhile, gas prices have nearly doubled as the Obama administration has rejected new energy production, blocked and lobbied against projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and promoted policies that would drive prices up even further.”

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Lying with Statistics Again

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

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The Unemployment Crisis

Pundits are just beginning to realize the magnitude of the unemployment issue. Don Peck has an important story that explains:

The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work. All of these figures understate the magnitude of the jobs crisis.

That’s because the underemployment rate is really 17.4 percent. As Peck notes, the long-term consequences are quite devastating. (“If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well.”) The root of the problem is not simply staving off job losses but also creating enough jobs to put the unemployed back into the job market. As Peck notes:

The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep—that’s the number required to get back to 5 percent unemployment, the rate we had before the recession started, and one that’s been more or less typical for a generation. And because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

For one thing, it will undermine the feminist critique of society. It is the men who will likely suffer the most, with high layoff rates in male-dominated industries. (“In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948. At the time of this writing, it looks possible that within the next few months, for the first time in U.S. history, women will hold a majority of the country’s jobs.”)

The longish piece is worth reading in full to get an inkling of the far-reaching economic and social fallout from long-term unemployment. But for that one need only look at Europe, which has seen the erosion of the work ethic, decreased level of growth and wealth creation, and a lack of optimism and social connection for young adults.

On a political level, the situation calls for a dynamic change of course and a jump-start for wealth creation and job growth. In the late 1970s, we faced a similar crisis of economic and political confidence. It took a new president and a new economic outlook — based on a rebirth of faith in the ability of market capitalism to generate prosperity. Lower taxes, reduced regulation, and free trade were the keys. Unfortunately, our current governing class seems to doubt the efficacy of free markets and persists in schemes to suck wealth out of the private sector. It is a recipe for prolonged pain. Voters may sense we need something new. Hope and change, I think.

Pundits are just beginning to realize the magnitude of the unemployment issue. Don Peck has an important story that explains:

The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work. All of these figures understate the magnitude of the jobs crisis.

That’s because the underemployment rate is really 17.4 percent. As Peck notes, the long-term consequences are quite devastating. (“If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well.”) The root of the problem is not simply staving off job losses but also creating enough jobs to put the unemployed back into the job market. As Peck notes:

The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep—that’s the number required to get back to 5 percent unemployment, the rate we had before the recession started, and one that’s been more or less typical for a generation. And because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

For one thing, it will undermine the feminist critique of society. It is the men who will likely suffer the most, with high layoff rates in male-dominated industries. (“In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948. At the time of this writing, it looks possible that within the next few months, for the first time in U.S. history, women will hold a majority of the country’s jobs.”)

The longish piece is worth reading in full to get an inkling of the far-reaching economic and social fallout from long-term unemployment. But for that one need only look at Europe, which has seen the erosion of the work ethic, decreased level of growth and wealth creation, and a lack of optimism and social connection for young adults.

On a political level, the situation calls for a dynamic change of course and a jump-start for wealth creation and job growth. In the late 1970s, we faced a similar crisis of economic and political confidence. It took a new president and a new economic outlook — based on a rebirth of faith in the ability of market capitalism to generate prosperity. Lower taxes, reduced regulation, and free trade were the keys. Unfortunately, our current governing class seems to doubt the efficacy of free markets and persists in schemes to suck wealth out of the private sector. It is a recipe for prolonged pain. Voters may sense we need something new. Hope and change, I think.

Read Less




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