Sunday, January 10, 2016

Strong December jobs report adds to impressive Obama record

Despite the plummeting stock market last week, there was one significant bit of good economic news. The U.S. jobs report for December 2015 was released on Friday, and the numbers surprised to the upside.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 292,000 in December. Employment rose in several industries, including professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Mining employment continued to decline. In 2015, payroll employment growth totaled 2.7 million, compared with 3.1 million in 2014....

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised from +298,000 to +307,000, and the change for November was revised from +211,000 to +252,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 50,000 higher than previously reported. Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 284,000 per month.
So add in the revisions, and that's 342,000 jobs above where we thought we were last month (325,000 in the private sector). It also soothes some concerns that the economy may be stalling out toward recession, at least in the short term, given that job growth like that wouldn't happen if the economy was in decline. Yes, some of this December gain could be attributed to the warm December (remember when it was 50 degrees a months ago vs the 5 degrees we have today?). That helped raise seasonally-adjusted construction jobs by 45,000, while the amount of non-seasonally-adusted construction jobs went down by 151,000 (indicating the usual amount of December construction layoffs would be around 200,000). Some of that may cancel itself out with higher "losses" in seasonally-adjusted construction jobs in January. But there were still another 247,000 jobs added outside of construction, and it's still a very strong finish to 2015.

If you add in those upward revisions to US jobs, it also adds to the Walker jobs gap here in Wisconsin. If Wisconsin would have kept up with the US job numbers in the first 5 years of Scott Walker's regime, the state would have added over 270,000 private sector jobs. Instead, the private sector jobs gap is now over 100,000 jobs, and nearly 96,500 overall.

And it's not just over the last 5 years that U.S. jobs has been on the upward trend. Paul Waldman of the Washington Post added these most recent numbers in to President Obama's record with 7 full years of job stats in office, and found that it puts Obama in elite company for jobs for presidents that have served over the last 40 years. Here are the figures going back to Obama's inauguration in January 2009.

   Not bad, but remember that Obama took office, the country was losing 700,000-800,000 jobs a month. Waldman takes that into account, and includes a one-year lag, so job stats that happened in the first year of a president's term is "credited" to the previous president. This would give the job losses of 2001 to Clinton instead of Dubya Bush, and give the 2009 job losses to Bush instead of Obama, for example. Take a look what happens when you do that.

  This puts Obama in the same area as Reagan and Clinton for job growth, and Waldman says that Barack's standing could go even higher if job growth stays on track in 2016. And Waldman also notes the irony that GOP presidential candidates don't want to continue Obama policies, but instead go back to the supply-side BS of the 8 years prior to Obama's inauguration, which were terrible for job growth.
We don’t know what will happen this year; there could be another recession, or there could be an economic boom. But let’s assume for the moment that the economy goes along pretty much as it has been for the last few years. If we see the creation of just 200,000 jobs per month — not bad, but not spectacular either — that would add 2.4 million jobs to Obama’s total, giving him 16 million jobs created since the bottom of the Great Recession. That would put him right around the same total of job creation as Reagan, and somewhat less than Clinton. Even if we counted from the beginning of his presidency, he’d still have seen the creation of almost 12 million jobs. And in the last five years, the economy has averaged 2.3 million new jobs per year, which among these presidents only Clinton exceeded.

So we can say definitively that no matter what else you think, you simply cannot say that Barack Obama hasn’t been a great president for job creation. There’s also no question, no matter how you measure it, about who the worst jobs president in recent history was: George W. Bush.

This isn’t just a matter for historians to mull over, because right now we’re in the midst of a presidential campaign, one in which — and I can’t stress this too emphatically — every Republican candidate is essentially promising to bring back George W. Bush’s economic policies. There is some variation in their particular plans, but all the candidates say basically the same thing: if we cut taxes (particularly for the wealthy) and scale back regulations, the economy will positively explode in a supernova of job creation and prosperity.
And both in Wisconsin and in the U.S., we know these policies do not work, either for balancing the budget, or in job growth. So why the hell would anyone who believes in results want to put those clowns in power at a state or federal level?

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