Economics 101: What has President Obama actually done for the unemployment rate?

Our annoying Kiwi commenter seems to think that the facts are on his side, and has cherry-picked some article by someone which states that there were good economic indicators which tell us that President Obama’s economic policies were absolutely great.

Well, let’s look at some real numbers. President Obama liked to claim that he created 4½ million jobs, which is pure bovine feces. He was claiming that the evil George Bush was responsible for all of the job losses, but that he gets credit for any job gains. As an academic exercise only, for this article I accept that point.

So, what actually happened? The highest official unemployment rate was 10.0%, in October of 2009.1 Since President Obama claims that he created all of these jobs, let’s look at that as the starting point. Between October of 2009 and October of 2012, 4,984,000 more people were employed. However, the work-eligible population grew by 7,433,000. It sure doesn’t seem like job growth kept up with population, does it?

There is a statistic called the participation rate, which is simply the percentage of the work-eligible population which is actually in the labor force, the labor force being defined as those who have jobs plus those who do not, but are actively seeking work; people without jobs who are not looking for work are not counted as part of the labor force. In October of 2009, when our official unemployment rate was 10.0%, 65.0% of the working-age population was considered to be in the labor force.

In October of 2012, in the last report issued before the election, the official unemployment rate had dropped to 7.9%. However, doing a little math tells us the truth: if potential workers under the Obama economy hadn’t been so discouraged as to not even look for work, if the participation rate had remained the same as in the end of the economy that President Obama wants to blame on his predecessor, the labor force would have been almost three million souls larger than the labor force reported in the October 2012 unemployment listing. What that means is that, in the part of the economy President Obama claims for his own, if as many people, percentagewise, had confidence enough to simply look for work, the unemployment rate would have stood not at 7.9% but 9.6%. The number of people officially unemployed would not have fallen by 3,163,000, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers would have you believe, but by a whopping 217,000.

These are the facts: job growth under President Barack Obama is no greater than population growth.

The ever-sycophantic Philadelphia Inquirer had the banner headline today, “Now, It’s Back to Work.” The trouble is, under even that part of the economy that President Obama claims as his own, there isn’t any going back to work for the unemployed; the number of people who are really out of work — as opposed to “officially” out of work — is virtually the same as it was from the point at which President Obama claims credit for jobs created. President Obama’s policies, despite the silly cherry-picking article that the Phoenician seems to think is “reality,” have not reduced unemployment to any significant extent; all that they have done is reduce the official unemployment numbers by discouraging people who should be working from actually looking for a job.

Of course, it no longer matters as far as the election is concerned; President Obama and the Democrats bamboozled enough people into voting for them that President Obama won the election. But it looks like the economy will have to heal itself, because President Obama and his minions certainly have no clue as to how to help. They’ve tried, and failed, and added a trillion dollars to the national debt unnecessarily in their attempt.

That last is the worst part. If they had done nothing at all, and let the economy recover on its own, it is unlikely we’d be any worse off. Now, we have an additional trillion dollars we have to pay back, money which will have to be taken out of our future production, and spent not to keep our economy growing, but get shipped to China. The efforts of the President and his team of economists to stimulate our economy in 2009 will have the actual effect of slowing down our economy in the out years.


  1. All employment statistics taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-1, Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age, with all numbers except population seasonally adjusted; BLS does not seasonally adjust population. The user must input the search parameters he wishes to use. Numbers in the fourth data column are calculation functions performed by a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, assuming that the participation rate had remained constant.

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