DNC Convention

Obama recovery produced more jobs than Reagan, Bush?

Obama recovery produced more jobs than Reagan, Bush?

The U.S. economy has generated more jobs during the Obama recovery than it did during the Bush recovery or even the Reagan recovery, according to Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter. On a recent episode of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Cutter told co-host Willie Geist: “… over the past, you know, 27 months we’ve created 4.5 million private sector jobs. That’s more jobs than in the Bush recovery, in the Reagan recovery, there’s obviously more we need to do …”

BUNK.

According to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Obama recovery didn’t begin 27 months ago, but 37 months ago, in June 2009. Cutter skipped the first ten months of the recovery—during which the private sector lost 800,000 jobs, a decline of about 0.8 percent. Understandably, the Obama campaign wants to drop this period—encompassing that embarrassment the administration dubbed “recovery summer”—down the memory hole.

Cutter’s 27 months begin in the employment trough of April 2010, the tenth month of the recovery. Starting from that point, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employment in the U.S. increased by about 4.2 million (not 4.5 million)—from about 107 million to more than 111 million. That’s an increase of 3.9 percent over these 27 months.

How does this compare with the Bush and Reagan recoveries? To find out, we must compare analogous periods, starting with each recession’s employment trough and ending 27 months later.

During the Bush recovery, private-sector employment bottomed out in in December 2003 with 108.7 million jobs. Over the following 27 months, it increased by more than 5 million jobs, to about 113.8 million in March 2006—an increase of approximately 4.7 percent.

During the Reagan recovery, private-sector employment bottomed out at about 73 million jobs in March 1983. Over the ensuing 27 months, it rose to about 81 million in June 1985. That’s an increase of nearly 7.9 million jobs—more than 10 percent!

It’s tempting to beat this point into the ground, to go into U-6 numbers, labor-force participation rates, employment-population ratios, and all the rest, to show that things are even worse than these numbers indicate. But it’s not necessary to show the fatuousness of this claim:

In terms of raw numbers, over analogous periods, the Bush recovery generated 740,000 more jobs than the Obama recovery, while the Reagan recovery generated some 6.8 million more jobs.

In percentage terms, over analogous periods, the Bush recovery generated 20 percent more jobs than the Obama recovery, while the Reagan recovery generated about 87 percent more jobs.

Newflash to the Obama campaign: 4.2 million is not greater than 5 million, nor is it greater than 7.9 million.

It’s a mistake to focus too much on Ms. Cutter: surely she was just regurgitating talking points handed to her by Obama’s messaging “experts.” But that the president’s team came up with this message is deeply disturbing.

Does Obama not understand the disconnect between his message and reality?

Or worse, does he think we don’t?

Surely allowing his campaign to spout such nonsense can do little to shore up confidence in the president’s competence. The administration’s happy-talk about the Obama “recovery”betrays a lack of seriousness: Household incomes have fallen more during this recovery than they did during the recession, the CBO is warning that Obama’s policies threaten another recession, while Obama’s own surrogates say it’s already here.

Perhaps David Burge, a.k.a. conservative humorist and blogger Iowahawk, was joking when he tweeted about “Obama’s most horrifying nightmare: math”—but the joke may be on us.

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