06 April 2012

2012 Jobs Report and Obama's Future

Last month the American economy created 120,000 jobs.

Here's one way to compare 120,000 jobs gained vs. 258,000 jobs gained (the average of January and February).

So far, job creation under Obama has been negative. The economy has lost 740,000 jobs during his administration.

That number will turn positive with the jobs report in early July if the economy gains jobs at the rate it did in January and February. By contrast, it won't turn positive until the jobs report in early November if the economy gains jobs at the rate it did last month.

Of course, the economy "under Obama's administration" lost 2.2 million during his first three months in office. It's hard to imagine any sane person blaming his policies for the job losses in those first few months (or even, really, in his first year). Nonetheless, in a culture in which a tweet passes for news, it is hard to imagine even a sane rebuttal making much headway against the simple fact that job gains in Obama's first term are zero.

It might be that the election turns on something as simple as whether job gains between now and the election come at the rate they did in the first two months or at the rate they did last month.

Finally, here are two ways to compare Obama's job creation numbers with administrations back to Nixon.

In this first table, it simply compares job creation totals during their administration and then by month (highest, lowest, average), starting with the month after they were sworn in up to March of their fourth year.
Here you can see that only GW Bush had a worse time of it up to this point in his presidency. Still, as his supporters pointed out, it wasn't fair to burden him with the recession in inherited after the dot com bubble burst and, of course, Obama's supporters say a similar thing about holding him accountable for a global financial bust that was underway even before he was elected.

So, the next table shows the same number but excludes the first year for each administration, assuming that their policies had no impact in the first year but did in the second. Again, the totals are for the whole period while the low, high, and average values are for months. 

Discounting the numbers in the first year, we see that Obama fares much better. HW Bush now has the worst record, followed by GW Bush, Nixon, and then Reagan. Obama's total is third, behind Clinton and Carter.

But this raises another point. GW Bush got re-elected even with a terrible rate of job creation whereas Carter lost re-election even with great numbers. It might just be that job creation matters less than conventional wisdom would have us believe.

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