Politics & Policy

Obama Doubled the Jobs Deficit

There are 86,000 fewer jobs today than when he took office.

President Obama has spun the latest jobs report in a desperate effort to keep his own job, stressing to voters that August saw modest job growth in the private sector. What the president won’t say is that the growth is measured only against the previous month’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and that 86,000 fewer jobs exist in America today than when he took office in January 2009. Moreover, whatever modest jobs growth the president can claim in recent months is dwarfed by the increase of the work-force population.

During the Obama administration, the jobs deficit has doubled — that is, the gap between the actual number of jobs and the number we would expect in a historically “normal” economy with the current size of the U.S. population.

Forget “forward.” Obamanomics has resulted in an economy that has been sliding downhill fast.

As the accompanying table based on Labor Department statistics indicates, the total age-eligible work-force population has increased by more than 8.8 million people since January 2009. Typically two-thirds of the age-eligible population enters the work force, so the increase in the work-force population for this period would normally be about 5.9 million. Obama likes to take credit for “creating” 4.5 million jobs since the economy hit bottom in late 2009 — a figure too low for the expanding age-eligible population and also deceptive, as the number of jobs created during the Obama administration has fallen short of the number of jobs lost.

The real measure for any president leading an economic recovery is how quickly the economy returns to “normal” — how long it takes for the jobs deficit to be eliminated. The table clearly shows that, far from filling the jobs-deficit hole, Obama’s policies have only deepened it.

When Obama took office in January 2009, the jobs deficit was 5.5 million. The jobs deficit then worsened dramatically through the summer of 2011, eventually exceeding 11.2 million. The economy showed some life in late 2011 and early 2012 but then started sliding backward again with a series of dismal monthly economic reports. The disappointing September report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the jobs deficit has climbed again to 11.2 million — twice the deficit Obama inherited.

Defining a “normal” economy requires establishing benchmarks for the unemployment rate and for the labor-force participation rate (LPR). For a “normal” unemployment level, I used the estimate of 5.4 percent from the Congressional Budget Office.

To calculate a benchmark LPR (percentage of the population employed or looking for a job), I averaged the monthly LPR for the nineteen years from January 1990 through December 2008. The average LPR for that period is 66.53 percent, which reflects economic peaks and valleys — the robust 1990s, for example, and the dot-com bust and 9/11 recession as well as the recovery and the crash of the George W. Bush years. Note that the 66.53 percent average LPR is a “modern era” calculation, incorporating the effect of increasing numbers of women in the work force.

Most telling about the Obama economy is that the LPR dropped to just 63.5 percent in the latest jobs report, matching a 31-year low, as another 368,000 workers dropped out of the work force in despair.

While jobs in proportion to population have not increased, various other Labor Department statistics document “growth” in some categories that the president would like voters to ignore.

Today, after three and a half years of Obama’s non-recovery recovery, 495,000 more Americans are unemployed than when he took office. More than 8.4 million could work but aren’t looking for a job. The number of people, 6.957 million, who want a job but can’t find one has increased by more than a million. The number of workers, 8 million, who have settled for a part-time job because of the rotten economy remains stuck at twice the level we would see in a normal economy.

Obama cannot honestly claim that jobs have increased relative to the size of the population, nor can he say that his policies are returning the U.S. to a normal economy. We are sliding backward. In August 2009, Obama crowed from the Rose Garden that he had “rescued our economy from catastrophe” and that the recovery was on. Three years — and three failed “recovery summers” later — the Labor Department’s data tell a different and damning story.

Once again the question is before the voters: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The best answer President Obama can offer is that “it could have been worse.” That’s not good enough, and voters should not reward him for failing to deliver.

Bob Beauprez, a former member of Congress from Colorado, is the author of A Return to Values: A Conservative Looks at His Party. He operates a buffalo-breeding ranch in the Colorado mountains. 

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