This is your “Obama recovery”

posted at 7:10 pm on February 20, 2012 by Mitch Berg

The Dems are crowing about the drop in unemployment numbers.

But if you look a little further into the numbers, you see that the American job market is notbetter off than it was four years ago.  Indeed, it’s a lot worse.

On Inauguration Day in 2009, when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent (up from 4.4% as recently as May of 2007).  Notwithstanding his promises that Porkulus would cap unemployment at 8.5%, it soared to 10% in October of 2009, and didn’t dip down below 9% in any sustained way until last fall.  Last month, after three years of Obama, it was at 8.3% – or .2% lower than where he said it’d never get above if we spent what he proposed.

That’s bad.

“But 8.3% is better than 10%, right?”

Sure – if all you’re doing is comparing numbers straight-up.  But by itself, the unemployment rate is meaningless.  It’s a percentage of people out of work – but who are those people?  They are the ones that are participating in the labor market.

And fewer Americans than ever -ever! – are doing that!

So let’s figure the actual percentage of Americans working, overall.

January 2009: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Workforce Participation rate when Obama took office was 65.7%.  That means 34.3% of the workforce wasn’t even trying to participate, through discouragement, disability or whatever case applied.  Add to that the 7.8% unemployed, and you reach a figure of 57.1% of the American workforce actually working.

October 2009:  At this point, the “low point” of the Obama recession, the participation rate was an even 65% just in time for unemployment to hit an even 10%.,  55% of the American work force was working.

January, 2012:  As unemployment stood at 8.3%, the workforce participation rate was 63.7% – the lowest since records have been kept.  That means that overall employment in the American workforce is now a whopping…


That’s a fifth of a percent higher than it was at the lowest point of the Obama recession.

Almost two full points lower than it was when Barack Obama took office. 

(And five full points lower than June of 2003, the worst month of George W. Bush’s presidency.  That’s five percent lower employment overall.  Six and change if you take one of Bush’s better months).

The media is spinning nonstop about the “Obama recovery”.  It’s vapor; in terms of percentage of the American workforce actually working, there is no recovery.

Are you better off than you were four years ago, America?

No – you’re doing two percent worse.

Update, 2/21/12: Yesterday, in my piece “This Is Your Obama Recovery“, I looked at the math behind the unemployment numbers.  I concluded that when you subtract the unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Force Participation numbers, the number of Americans working is two percentage points lower than it was when Barack Obama was inaugurated, and only a fifth of a point better than the “low point” of the recession (in unemployment terms), in October of 2009.

I reached the numbers by subtracting the unemployment figure from the participation figure; for example, in October of 2009, I subtracted the 10% unemployment rate from the 65% participation rate to get an overall employment rate of 55%.
A commenter at Hot Air - where Allahpundit was kind enough to run my post in its entirety - pointed out that I did the math wrong.  He was correct, of course; the unemployment rate is among those participating in the labor force, not the entire force.  I needed to recalculate, multiplying the BLS Labor Force Participation Rate  by the same month’s unemployment rate as supplied by the BLS.
It actually makes things worse for the Administration.
  • January 2009:  7.8% unemployment among the 65.7% of people participating in the workforce meant 60.67% of the work force was working the day Barack Obama was inaugurated.
  • October 2010 - lopping 10% unemployment from the 65% participation rate leaves you 58.5% of the workforce at work on the month the unemployment rate supposedly bottomed.
  • January 2012 - Three years after Obama took office, with the unemployment rate right about the point where Obama said that it’d peak with Porkulus?  8.3% unemployment among a 63.7% share of the workforce still in the workforce yields58.41% of the labor force actually working.
So I was wrong.  We actually have a lower percentage of the work force actually working now than at the “low point” of the recession”, and two and a quarter points lower than when Obama took office.
I regret the error.
I hope America feels the same.

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