Friday, June 3, 2011

Making Adjustments

Job loss/gains under Bush & Obama (via Steve Benen)
One of my favorite Al Franken stories concerns his confrontation with then-Rep (now-Gov.) John Kasich over whether or not the GOP were using constant dollars in claiming that they were increasing Medicare spending back in the Gingrich years. Failing to adjust for inflation, of course, is one of the easiest ways to lie with statistics. And people do it all the time.

As Kevin Drum has frequently pointed out, another statistic that needs to be adjusted is the number of jobs gained (or lost) in any given month. As he reminded us again yesterday, the economy needs to generate 150,000 jobs each month just to keep up with population growth. I remember Democrats pointing that out during the Bush years, but these days, not so much.

Today, Drum helpfully refigures Steve Benen's monthly jobs chart, reproduced above, into accounting for how far above or below 150,000 each month's figure is. Thus our economic recovery actually looks like this:

Job loss/gains above 150,000/month (via Kevin Drum)
So while the economy added 54,000 jobs, that's actually 96,000 below where we need to be just to stay in place. Meanwhile, as Matthew Yglesias points out every single month when the jobs data comes out, we have modest private sector growth offset by ongoing job losses in the public sector. Private employers added 83,000 jobs in May, he reports, but the 29,000 jobs cuts from public payrolls at the local, state and federal levels (mostly local, as it turns out), reduced that number to 54K, So we need to adjust for that, too. If we didn't have this ongoing right-wing mania for "reducing the size of government" when unemployment is stuck at 9%, we'd be enjoying this recovery quite a bit more.

I'd like to be able to complain that one party believes in cutting jobs during a recession, while the other believes in spending what it takes to restore full employment. But if you ask Jared Bernstein, who just left the White House, he'll tell you they've pretty much given up on any more stimulus to the economy.

So where does that leave us? I don't know about you, but this is really beginning to piss me off.

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