“The longest streak of private-sector job growth on record”!
“U.S. businesses have now added 14.4 million jobs over 73 straight months”!
“The labor force participation rate rose to 63% in March, the same level as in November 2013”!
All those quotes — minus the exclamation points — came from White House top economist Jason Furman. And they are all accurate.
What’s missing, however, is context. Because when you look at these numbers in context, not only do the exclamation points disappear, but so do any claims of robust job growth under this administration.
CAPhill05ch_040116Take that 14.4 million job growth number. That sounds impressive doesn’t it? But that job growth is stretched over almost six full years, during which time the working age population grew by 15.8 million.
In that respect, we’ve lost ground on jobs under Obama.
What’s more, that 14.4 million increase in jobs is measured against when the job market hit rock bottom in February 2010. If you compare the current number of jobs to the previous jobs peak in January 2008 — which is how job growth is normally measured — the number of private-sector jobs has increased just 5.6 million.
During that time, the population grew by more than 20 million. In other words, there’s a jobs gapof more than 14 million.
What about “labor force participation”? This is a measure of how many people are working or activity looking for a job. And while it’s recently ticked upward, as the nearby chart shows it is still way below where it was when the jobs recession ended in early 2010.
Want more context? Compare these numbers to what happened during the Reagan recovery, when the job market exploded after bottoming out in December 1982. While the population grew 12.4 million in the following six years, the number of jobs shot up by 18.4 million.
As a result, the labor force participation rate — which started out lower under Reagan than Obama — zoomed upward as strong growth pulled people back into the job market.
There are other bits of context on jobs that Furman manages to leave out of his post.
While 14.4 million jobs were created from February 2010 to March 2016, the number of people who dropped out of the labor force — either because they retired or just quit looking for work — shot up an astonishing 10 million.
Meanwhile, the number of people who aren’t in the labor force but do want to work is higher today than when Obama took office. And the median length of unemployment is now 11.4 weeks, which is also higher than when Obama took office.
In many areas of life, slow and steady will win the race. But when it comes to job growth, slow and steady ends up leaving millions of workers in the dust.