In the aftermath of last week’s reported headline number of 7.8% unemployment, Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was out on the hustings bragging about how his policies had created some 5,000,000 jobs since the end of the Panic in 2009. Like that’s a good performance.
Let’s look at that. He promised in 2009 a 5.5% unemployment rate by now. How many new jobs would have been created had we actually reached his promised number? In December 2009 (some six months after the nominal end of the Panic of 2009), the civilian labor force was 153,059,000, of which 137,792,000 Americans were employed, a 10% unemployment rate, according to BLS statistics, and using round numbers.
In September 2012, again using BLS numbers, the civilian labor force was larger, at 155,063,000 (and it had a smaller participation rate than in 2009, but we’ll gloss over that). There were some 142,974,000 Americans actually employed—that increase of 5,000,000 of which Obama is so proud.
However, a 5.5% unemployment rate corresponds, if my 1st grade arithmetic serves me well, to 94.5% of the civilian labor force actually employed: 146,535,000 Americans. Again consulting my 1st grade arithmetic book, there are some 3,561,000 Americans that should be employed but aren’t—because Obama’s proudly proclaimed policies have come up short, and we aren’t anywhere near 5.5% unemployment.
Let’s look at this another way. It’s been widely reported that this “recovery” is the weakest, most anemic post-recession recovery in our nation’s history. Those reports aren’t far wrong. A normal recovery coming out of a downturn as deep and steep as was the Panic of 2009 typically sees growth rates of 5%-6% per year, or more. This Obama recovery has been 6.7% over the entirety of his term in office—nearly four years. Had we seen a normal recovery (and using a pessimistic 5%/year growth rate), we would have reached today’s unemployment rate after a shade over one year—in 2010—and we would have been back to full employment (in the range of 4.8%-5.5%) in just under 2 years—by last year.
Obama says his policies are working. Sure.