Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Many Jobs Has Obama Really Lost!

According to the 22 Sep 2011 Washington Post Fact Checker: "....the number of overall jobs has declined by 1.9 million since Obama’s stimulus bill was passed into law more than two years ago. Moreover, Obama is on track to have the worst job record of any U.S. president since World War II. He may even become the first president in the modern era with no net jobs created during his first term — which, by any stretch of the imagination, is a stunning statistic.

When the Washington Post awards a Liberal like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, a Pinocchio award – she must have told a World Class lie! You can't make this stuff up! Here unedited is what the Washington Post had to say (Published: 18 June 2011):
The Fact CheckerBy by glenn kessler

“When President Obama took office, the month before he was inaugurated, the economy was bleeding 750,000 jobs a month, David. . . . You fast-forward 2 1 / 2 years later now, and the economy has created 2.1 million private-sector jobs.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” June 12, 2011

“The Chairwoman is living in Fantasyland. . . . We have lost 2.5 million jobs since Barack Obama has been president.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, moments later on the same program

A reader who watched NBC’s “Meet The Press” one week ago found his head spinning as the DNC and RNC chiefs battled with dueling factoids about the employment record under President Obama. He was particularly amused that Wasserman Schultz said there were 2 million more jobs and Priebus asserted there were 2.5 million fewer jobs.

Whew, that’s a swing of nearly 5 million jobs in just a few seconds! They can’t both be right, can they?

Amazingly, they are. Priebus is on more solid ground, rhetorically, but both are cherry-picking the statistics to make the best possible case for their side.

The Facts
The recession that greeted Obama when he took office was one of the worst recessions since the end of World War II. It started in December 2007, but the bottom fell out in late 2008, after the investment firm Lehman Brothers collapsed.

The common source of statistics for U.S. employment is the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics current employment survey, which is where Wasserman Schultz and Priebus derived their statistics.

Priebus crafts his figure by starting with employment when Obama took office, which he signals with the phrase “since Barack Obama has been president.” There were 133.56 million people with non-farm (private sector and government) jobs in January 2009; there are 131.04 million people with jobs today. Subtract one from the other and that shows 2.5 million fewer jobs.

So, yes, it is accurate, but is that fair? After all, it took weeks for many of Obama’s polices to be passed by Congress — and months to take effect, while about 2.5 million jobs were lost in the first four months of Obama’s presidency.

Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, starts from a different point — when employment hit rock bottom in February 2010. That was 13 months after Obama became president. It is also eight months after the recession officially ended in June 2009, as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

That would yield an increase of 1.8 million jobs, but then Wasserman Schultz greases the skids by slipping in the phrase “private-sector jobs.” When government jobs are removed from the statistic, suddenly the job growth is 2.1 million since February 2010.

Wasserman Schultz is taking a page from the other team’s playbook. Republicans have used this kind of job accounting in the past, such as President George W. Bush in his 2006 State of the Union address.

DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse said that looking at the growth of jobs in the past 15 months is the best reflection of the impact of the stimulus package, which he said took months to work its way through the economy. He added that private-sector jobs are the “most accurate reflection of where the economy is going,” especially because government employment was artificially boosted in 2010 because of census hiring.

RNC spokesman Joe Pounder, not surprisingly, disagrees and defends starting the job count from the beginning of the president’s term. “The president’s major economic policy — the stimulus — was signed into law on February 17, 2009,” Pounder said. “The president and his administration were cited far and wide saying it would have an immediate impact. If the stimulus had worked as the administration intended, I’m sure they would have no problem counting jobs over the course of his entire term.”

We actually think a more logical place to measure job growth would be from the end of the recession — June 2009. That would give the new president time to take ownership of the economic situation, and yet remove some of the job losses that clearly did not happen as a result of his policies.

Counting from June 2009, job growth over two years is 600,000, which is still fairly grim. No wonder the DNC does not use it as a talking point.

Priebus is on more solid ground rhetorically because, like it or not, presidents often are measured by job growth during their entire term. For instance, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), when he was running for president in 2004, frequently charged that Bush was the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose jobs in his term.

The Pinocchio Test
Both figures are technically accurate, but they don’t tell the whole story. We will give Priebus a pass because he used a relatively common measure of job growth during a presidency. Wasserman Schultz, by contrast, picked the data set that gave the most positive picture possible, thus distorting the record. It may be a snapshot in time, but it is not a full picture of the economy during Obama’s presidency since the recession ended.

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