Employment Situation

Friday is NFP day, the monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Its proper name is “Employment Situation,” and it includes statistics like the unemployment rate and average hourly earnings.  If you are evaluating the president’s performance on job creation, you will get one more of these before the election.

Governor Romney described last month’s report as a “kick in the gut.”  President Obama says he inherited a bad situation, and that we are now “net positive” on jobs.  Whom to believe?  The chart below shows the last four years of data, so you can decide for yourself.

As you can see, we were losing jobs at a ferocious rate when Obama took office.  The nadir was January 2009, when we lost 818,000 jobs.  This may have been the bottom of a trend, or it may be down to the Economic Recovery Act, which passed in February 2009.  By the way, this stimulus package cost $800 billion.  The Act has its own web site, which details how the money was spent.

“During the mature phase of an economic expansion, monthly payrolls gains of 150,000 or so are considered relatively healthy.  In the early stages of recovery though, gains are expected to surpass 250,000 per month.”

Those negative bars going up to February 2010, plus the bad months earlier in 2008, add up to 8.8 million lost jobs.  Since then, we have recovered 4.0 million.  Economists generally expect a stronger bounce back from recession – the quote above is from Haver Analytics.  To Jeremiah’s eye, it looks like the bounce was proceeding nicely through May 2009, and then knocked back over the summer.

Voters will probably blame Congress, the President, or George W. Bush, depending on their existing prejudices.  That’s the reason for printing this chart before NFP day.  You can develop your own theory whether things are improving or not, with two bars yet ’til the election.

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