Update: Click here for the most recent jobs statistics.
I posted an article last month that compared the unemployment rate under President George W. Bush with the unemployment rate under President Obama at that time. I felt compelled to publish this article because some left-leaning sites were comparing Obama’s first two years and four months in office with Bush’s last and worst economic year (the above chart shows the most recent incarnation of this narrative).
In light of yesterday’s jobs numbers and the fact that both liberals and conservatives have been using my charts in flame wars, I decided to continue the tradition and post an update.
In May, the private sector added 83,000 jobs in the fifteenth consecutive month of private sector job growth. Again, this is moderately positive news. At least the country had a net employment gain. However, it is also important to note that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revised last month’s private sector employment gains of 268,000 down to 251,000.
More bad news is that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate actually ticked up in May from a whopping 9.0% to an even worse 9.1%. This number is 1.8 percentage points worse than President Bush’s last full month in office in December 2008.
Furthermore, the unemployment rate only accounts for the percentage of the unemployed who are actively seeking employment. It does not include people who have given up on finding employment.
Both the Bush and Obama presidencies have been marked by a steady decline in the labor force participation rate. The labor force participation rate measures the number of people in the labor force as a percentage of the total working-age population.
Therefore, the unemployment situation is even worse than it appears, because it does not account for people who have been forced to exit the labor market because they can not find jobs.
Putting the Numbers into Perspective
President Bush’s overall record continues to look far better than President Obama’s to date. Over President Bush’s presidency, the private sector created a net 141,000 jobs. Surprisingly, this number includes the 3.78 million private sector jobs lost in 2008.
In contrast, under President Obama’s administration, the private sector has still lost a net 2.91 million private sector jobs. If I blame Bush and Clinton for the January 2009 and January 2001 numbers, respectively, the private sector would still have lost 2.07 million private sector jobs under the Obama administration.
Again, the point of this argument is not to assess blame on either administrations’ policy. It simply puts the numbers into perspective.
For every job that the private sector created under George W. Bush, the private sector eliminated ~21 jobs under Barack Obama. While the private sector job outlook has improved recently, the economy still must create 2.91 million private sector jobs to break even.
The country still has a long way to go to restoring full employment and the President is running out of time. According to The New York Times, no sitting President since Franklin Roosevelt has won re-election when unemployment was over 7.2% on election day.
And President Obama is no FDR.