The Campaign Spot

President Obama, Completely Wrong on Reason for High Unemployment

CBS’s Mark Knoller, covering a town hall on the economy with the president this morning, reports: “President Obama blames high unemployment rate on ‘huge layoffs of government workers’ at federal, state and local levels.”

This is completely wrong. Extremely and mind-bogglingly wrong. Epically wrong.

First, let’s look at the numbers for private-sector employment. All figures come from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Recent peak of private-sector employment, June 2007: 116,603,000.

Total private-sector employment in the month Obama became president, January 2009: 109,084,000.

Recent low of private-sector employment, January 2010: 104,933,000.

Total private-sector employment, April 2011: 108,494,000 (Seasonally adjusted: 108,862,000).

So note, we are about 8 million away from the most recent peak in private-sector employment.

Now, let’s look at total government employment (at all levels) for those four months:

June 2007: 22,176,000.

January 2009: 22,471,000.

January 2010: 22,376,000.

April 2011: 22,594,000 (preliminary).

As you can see, in terms of total number of Americans employed in government, there has been no real discernible recession. In fact, the number has increased slightly.

Now let’s look at the number of people employed in state government during these months:

June 2007: 4,918,000.

January 2009: 5,116,000.

January 2010: 5,053,000.

April 2011: 5,253,000 (preliminary).

Again, not only pretty stable, but slowly climbing.

Now let’s look at employment in local government:

June 2007: 14,514,000.

January 2009: 14,583,000.

January 2010: 14,478,000.

April 2011:  14,492,000 (preliminary).

Again, the numbers are stable, and even indicate that local government employment is increasing, not decreasing.

Obama is not even a little bit right. Will anyone call him out on this?

UPDATE: The full quote is here:

“The reason the unemployment rate is still as high as it is, in part, is because there have been huge layoffs of government workers at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level,” he said. “Teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers– they have really taken it in the chin over the last several months. And so, what we’re trying to do is to see if we can stabilize the budget.”

Again, completely false. There has not been a significant reduction — or even variation, really — in the size of the government workforce at the federal, state, and local level.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In the comments, Reno Dave notes that in one case I used seasonally-adjusted numbers instead of non-seasonally adjusted numbers. I have added the non-seasonally-adjusted number for consistency. He notes that using the seasonally adjusted numbers, the total government workforce has varied slightly differently in the selected months:

June 2007: 22,218,000.

January 2009: 22,582,000.

January 2010: 22,488,000.

April 2011: 22,166,000 (preliminary).

You end up with 300,000 or so fewer government workers in the past 16 months. (Notice that the Census hiring effects these numbers a bit; the number of Census employees went from 24,000 in January 2010 to 564,000 in May 2010 all the way down to 1,000 in October 2010. More details here.)

However, that’s a fraction of the 12.3 million unemployed Americans above age 20 in the most recent BLS report. In other words, if we presume that none of those 300,000 laid off government workers have been rehired anywhere, they make up about 2.4 percent of the currently unemployed.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Ten Questions for the ‘Squad’

Democratic infighting reached a fever pitch last week with bickering and personal attacks between members of the “Squad” and other House Democrats. During that period, Squad members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley mostly avoided doing interviews. However, that all ... Read More

The Rise of the Chinese-American Right

On June 13, during a nasty storm, a group of Chinese New Yorkers gathered in front of the gates of Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s residence on the Upper East Side, to protest. Inside, Mayor Bill de Blasio was meeting with two dozen or so representatives of the Asian-American community to discuss his ... Read More

How Beto Made Himself into White-Privilege Guy

Robert Francis O’Rourke is white. If it’s any consolation, he’s very sorry about that. “Beto” has been running from his Irish ancestry for some time now. Long before the Left fell headlong into the logical termini of its triune fascination with race, power, and privilege, O’Rourke sensed that there ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More

Why Was Richard Spencer on CNN?

Self-avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer went on CNN yesterday. What he said isn't particularly interesting, because Richard Spencer isn't particularly interesting. What is interesting, at least in the sense that a multi-car pile up on the side of the interstate is interesting, is the bastard logic of the ... Read More