A reminder about the path to “full employment”

posted at 2:41 pm on August 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, I wrote about the new ad from Bill Clinton that correctly identified employment as the biggest issue in the campaign … a welcome change from the distraction strategy of the Obama campaign this summer.  The former President argued that “This election, to me, is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment,” and claimed Barack Obama’s policies were the most likely to lead us in this direction.  We have to assume that Clinton refers to Obama’s present first-term economic policies, since the campaign isn’t offering a second-term economic agenda and mostly refuses to talk about the economy at all.

If that’s the case, though, the data from Obama’s policies in the first term decisively defeats Clinton’s argument.  The BLS has two good measures on overall employment/unemployment in the American workforce: the civilian participation rate and the U-6 under/unemployment aggregate percentage of the workforce.  The U-6 measure goes back to 1994, the second year of the Clinton term, so we’ll look at both measures from that point forward, using the graphs produced by the BLS.

First, the BLS describes U-6 as the “total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”  That’s a fairly comprehensive measure of joblessness, and more stable than the topline unemployment rate after the participation rate dropped dramatically over the last four years; that reduces the denominator in the unemployment-rate equation, making the number artificially low in comparison to earlier rates.  Since 1994, here is the U-6 measure graphed through July 2012:

The big increase came with the Great Recession before Obama took office.  However, in the last four years, the number has only declined moderately, and in fact it’s gone back up the last few months.  There is no great progression toward “full employment” in the data for the Obama recovery, nor even a decline to the same levels experienced in the 2001-3 recession.  We’re not even coming close.

Now look at the civilian population participate rate for the workforce.  This measures the percentage of people actively working or seeking work, and the graph again starts in 1994 and progresses through July 2012:

This makes it clear that Clinton’s argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.  The decline in the participation rate didn’t fully get underway until Obama took office, when it was at 65.7%.  When the recovery began five months later, it was still 65.7%.  It’s now 63.7%, near a 30-year low of 63.6% that we hit in April of this year.

Unless Obama has a plan to completely revamp his economic policies (and regulatory policies as well), Clinton’s argument best applies to Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama.  At the very least, Romney would bring in new approaches that might reverse the employment declines that are well documented in the official government data.

Update: In the paragraph after the first graph, I mistakenly wrote “full unemployment” when I meant “full employment.”  I’ve corrected it; thanks to Dogsoldier for the correction.


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By Kenyan standards we are at full employment.

acyl72 on August 23, 2012 at 2:45 PM

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The Rogue Tomato on August 23, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Somehow, Slick Willie will sandbag Obama. It’s just a matter of when and how.

Bitter Clinger on August 23, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Well obviously the next solution will be forced labor camps.

rbj on August 23, 2012 at 2:48 PM

The Thrill is Gone

faraway on August 23, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Paradoxically, at the age of “gimme”, the high unemployment rate may actually increase the number of votes for Barry, when the high number of chronically, and very likely permanently, unemployed are afraid that their last source of support will be taken away by the Republicans.

bayview on August 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Obama must have paid “Slick Willy” off with an intern to have him produce the video.

Deano1952 on August 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Those charts have been photoshoped. Washington Post

RickinNH on August 23, 2012 at 2:50 PM

“This election, to me, is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment,” and claimed Barack Obama’s policies were the most likely to lead us in this direction. We have to assume that Clinton refers to Obama’s present first-term economic policies, since the campaign isn’t offering a second-term economic agenda and mostly refuses to talk about the economy at all.

If that’s the case, though, the data from Obama’s policies in the first term decisively defeats Clinton’s argument.

Clinton’s key words here are “most likely”. In a deep balance sheet recession following an asset bubble collapse in which the average middle class family has lost about 40% of its net worth, the prospects of full unemployment are slim to none.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:51 PM

I wonder if there might be some connection between this and Barry’s energy policies,…….naw,..probably not. OTOH, what if a challenger for the presidency came up with a fairly comprehensive outline of a new energy plan which would create the demand for thousands of new jobs?

a capella on August 23, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Aren’t we supposed to be talking about Todd Akin and legitimate rape or something?

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 2:52 PM

The path to “full government dependency” is more important right now.

Well obviously the next solution will be forced labor camps.

Re-elect Obama, and by 2015 that may come to be.

hawkeye54 on August 23, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Paradoxically, at the age of “gimme”, the high unemployment rate may actually increase the number of votes for Barry, when the high number of chronically, and very likely permanently, unemployed are afraid that their last source of support will be taken away by the Republicans

There we go again, the class warfare argument that the poor and unemployed are part of a liberal conspiracy to enslave America. The poor and unemployed in this country are not to blame for the recession and the fact that the US has lost its competitive edge in the global economy. Grow up.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Obama must have paid “Slick Willy” off with an intern to have him produce the video.

Deano1952 on August 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

…Ms. Spreadmylegs Fluke is an intern?

KOOLAID2 on August 23, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Somehow, Slick Willie will sandbag Obama. It’s just a matter of when and how.

Bitter Clinger on August 23, 2012 at 2:46 PM

And he’s going to be there in person to see the look on Obama’s face. Maybe during his speech at rape-palooza in Charlotte.

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 2:55 PM

If your unemployment chart has an erection for more that 4 years… Call Mitt Romney.

faraway on August 23, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Grow up.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

…?…you need some hormones?

KOOLAID2 on August 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Well, no one ever accused Bill Clinton of being a bad liar.

Curtiss on August 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

The real question is, does Billy Bob put Obumbles name into nomination or Hillary’s? You never know what Bill will do, once you give him the stage and sole control of the microphone.

MTF on August 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Under Socialism, we’re at full employment for so long as the unemployment rate is below 30%.

Breathe easier, America – Utopia is here!

Utopia is now!

OhEssYouCowboys on August 23, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Looking at the high unemployment graphs, I think this is the pic which should be on the front page of this article.
I don’t think he is even bothered by these figures

burrata on August 23, 2012 at 3:00 PM

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Only a stupid ideologue like you, who has nothing but tiresome OWS talking points, can invent class warfare bs from what I said. And BTW, you forgot racism.

bayview on August 23, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Well, no one ever accused Bill Clinton of being a bad liar.

Curtiss on August 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

My money is on Hillary…more than once, too.

BobMbx on August 23, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Aren’t we supposed to be talking about Todd Akin and legitimate rape or something?

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 2:52 PM

What about Seamus?

acyl72 on August 23, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Funny that BillC focused like a laser on the economy, but O focused like a laser on anything but the economy… on Obamacare, on advocating for the Ground Zero Mosque, on prosecuting CIA agents, and gutting NASA and making its mission one of “Muslim outreach” (!!), on his war on energy, on amnesty, on gainsaying traditional marriage.

O is not concerned about the private sector as the private sector is doing just fine. And just as O thinks entrepreneurs don’t build their own businesses but the public sector builds them for them, O’s full employment in theory is with the public sector public union goons holding the jobs and power, and we certainly don’t want that, as we wouldn’t sustain that for long. This economy has been built from the bottom up, from the toil and dreams and risks and individual initiative of entrepreneurs and small businessmen that built something. O talks about an economy that grows (fat) from the “middle out,” that middle is govt fat. Govt needs to go on a diet, O is wrong.

anotherJoe on August 23, 2012 at 3:02 PM

clinton won’t damage the Won…he’s a lib

unlike Huck who will do whatever he can to prop up his friend

From long Huck e-mail just sent out: “From the spotlights of political offices and media perches, it may appear that the demand for Akin’s head is universal in the party. I assure you it is not. There is a vast, but mostly quiet army of people who have an innate sense of fairness and don’t like to see a fellow political pilgrim bullied. If Todd Akin loses the Senate seat, I will not blame Todd Akin. He made his mistake, but was man enough to admit it and apologize.”

i wish i could say, I’ll never watch huckster again…but i don’t watch him now.

so, let’s see…preacher, politician, Huckster…yeah, that about sums up huck…oh, well, and maker of gobs of money from his perch in the media

beneath contempt

r keller on August 23, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Unless Obama has a plan to completely revamp his economic policies (and regulatory policies as well), Clinton’s argument best applies to Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama.

All he’s got is Fluke…and they deserve each other, the degenerates.

The Clintons will vote for Mitt. They despise the Obamas.

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:06 PM

I love how a married man, who sprayed sperm all over an unmarried intern, is still the breath of fresh air and reason for the Commie Party.

The filthy, Commie pagans.

OhEssYouCowboys on August 23, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:06 PM

I laugh, every time you post “degenerate.”

OhEssYouCowboys on August 23, 2012 at 3:13 PM

The Clintons will vote for Mitt. They despise the Obamas.

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Wild thought, that.

Axe on August 23, 2012 at 3:14 PM

The new normal

Grunt on August 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Earlier today, I wrote about the new ad from Bill Clinton …

Bill Clinton, accused of rape, charged with sexual harassment, disbarred for contempt in said harassment case, etc – *that* Bill Clinton? The one giving the opener at the DNC convention – the party which is trying to hang some nonsense by a guy from Missouri around the necks of the entire GOP – *that* DNC?

Just asking.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:19 PM

Obama’s imaginary recovery

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:21 PM

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

You never cease to amaze at how one person with the apparent ability to read and type can still be so constipatingly stupid. Congratulations.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:23 PM

The Clintons will vote for Mitt. They despise the Obamas.

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:06 PM

…I don’t doubt that one bit!

KOOLAID2 on August 23, 2012 at 3:28 PM

You never cease to amaze at how one person with the apparent ability to read and type can still be so constipatingly stupid. Congratulations.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:23 PM

But it’s not surprise that you have nothing intelligent to say. But go and embrace the pinhead economic ideas of Ryan, what this country really needs is a right wing social engineering project that further reduces the middle class.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Now this is classic Bill Clinton, showcasing both his political good sense and ability to tell huge whoppers with a straight face.

tom on August 23, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Bill Clinton, accused of rape, charged with sexual harassment, disbarred for contempt in said harassment case, etc – *that* Bill Clinton? The one giving the opener at the DNC convention – the party which is trying to hang some nonsense by a guy from Missouri around the necks of the entire GOP – *that* DNC?

Just asking.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:19 PM

…no…no…the other guy… that only the institutional media knows!

KOOLAID2 on August 23, 2012 at 3:32 PM

“Selfish Swine”

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:36 PM

To me “full employment” is two possibilities:

1. Socialism-everyone is assigned a job by the State.

2. Unemployment so low that it’s considered negligible, that is, what you have in a free enterprise system. A small percentage at any given time are between jobs for various reasons, but usually (within a year or less) are either re-employed or maybe start their own business.

Either way, Obama has failed to do what he claimed he (and his Democratic-controlled Congress a few years ago) would do.

So I can only conclude that he and his buddies are crooks who have siphoned off hundreds of billions out of the American economy.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 23, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Paradoxically, at the age of “gimme”, the high unemployment rate may actually increase the number of votes for Barry, when the high number of chronically, and very likely permanently, unemployed are afraid that their last source of support will be taken away by the Republicans

There we go again, the class warfare argument that the poor and unemployed are part of a liberal conspiracy to enslave America. The poor and unemployed in this country are not to blame for the recession and the fact that the US has lost its competitive edge in the global economy. Grow up.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Clever, trying to stand the usual meaning of “class warfare” on its head and apply it to some mythical “liberal conspiracy to enslave America.” But since that’s not what anyone is claiming, it’s nothing but a strong man.

And class warfare, though I’m sure you already know this, applies to setting one class of people against another by suggesting the poor can’t prosper because the rich have too much money. The only people promoting class warfare are the ones claiming one class of people is exploiting the other. Which is, and always has been, the Democrats.

Get out of here with your ridiculous attempt to redefine terms to suit yourself.

tom on August 23, 2012 at 3:38 PM

You never cease to amaze at how one person with the apparent ability to read and type can still be so constipatingly stupid. Congratulations.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:23 PM

But it’s not surprise that you have nothing intelligent to say. But go and embrace the pinhead economic ideas of Ryan, what this country really needs is a right wing social engineering project that further reduces the middle class.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Your side always accuses Republicans of attacking the middle class. But it’s the Republican party that best represents the middle class. Which is why the richest politicians in Congress are all Democrats.

tom on August 23, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Priorities

Schadenfreude on August 23, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Ed,
Looking at these charts I have one question.

What recovery?

Tenwheeler on August 23, 2012 at 3:50 PM

Your side always accuses Republicans of attacking the middle class. But it’s the Republican party that best represents the middle class. Which is why the richest politicians in Congress are all Democrats.

tom on August 23, 2012 at 3:40 PM

The trolls got an adrenaline shot today and it will last them a month or so.
Checkoput this Gawker whopper, the trolls are in 7th heaven already:
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/website-gawker-publishes-huge-cache-of-confidential-unfriendly-bain-capital-documents-but-are-they-actually-worthless/
Ax-turd has delivered, since there are no divorce records for Romney which can be unsealed by that sleaze bag in WH

burrata on August 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM

There we go again, the class warfare argument that the poor and unemployed are part of a liberal conspiracy to enslave America. The poor and unemployed in this country are not to blame for the recession and the fact that the US has lost its competitive edge in the global economy. Grow up.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

They are not part of the conspiracy, they are the result of the conspiracy.

Vastly different points.

And, EVERYONE is to blame. Everyone has a piece of this crap pie. Just some pigs have a bigger piece of pie than others.

Tenwheeler on August 23, 2012 at 3:53 PM

Checkoput this Gawker whopper, the trolls are in 7th heaven already:
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/website-gawker-publishes-huge-cache-of-confidential-unfriendly-bain-capital-documents-but-are-they-actually-worthless/
Ax-turd has delivered, since there are no divorce records for Romney which can be unsealed by that sleaze bag in WH

burrata on August 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM

Waiting with bated breath the imminent release of immigration and naturalization papers, college records and transcripts, Harvard Law School records, and….

Oh wait.

Tenwheeler on August 23, 2012 at 3:55 PM

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

You never cease to amaze at how one person with the apparent ability to read and type can still be so constipatingly stupid. Congratulations.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Spinach-boy is a bigtime banker type, which gives me great confidence in the financial sector./

slickwillie2001 on August 23, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Obama must have paid “Slick Willy” off with an intern to have him produce the video.
Deano1952 on August 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM

If he’d gotten the intern payoff, Slickster would have at least looked a little enthusiastic. Clinton looked like someone was holding a gun to his head. Bill’s dull demeanor was hanging Obama out to dry.

marybel on August 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Close, so close! If you really want charts of the day showing what people need to know about the labor force participation rate during President Obama’s tenure, try this one!…

ironman on August 23, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Spinach-boy is a bigtime banker type, which gives me great confidence in the financial sector./

slickwillie2001 on August 23, 2012 at 3:58 PM

How can you say that- Romney is a banker type although his field is more private equity than investment banking.

Sorry but lowering the taxes of Romney and other Wall Street bankers isn’t going to help the middle class. In every society, greater inequality between classes damages long-term economic growth and reduces stability- not the opposite.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/how-inequality-hurts-the-economy-11162011.html
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2011/09/Berg.htm

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 4:26 PM

This makes it clear that Clinton’s argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Wouldn’t be the first time….

apostic on August 23, 2012 at 4:27 PM

The Clintons are vengeful criminals with long memories. What Obama did to Hillary in ’08 will never be forgiven or forgotten.
Barry may think he neutralized the Clintons by putting Hillary in his cabinet but what he really did was give the Clintons access to his seat of power. Does anyone believe the Clintons said, “Oh well, we lost”, disbanded their army, and are now working for the success of a mortal enemy?
Obama’s background is Chicago machine politics but the Clintons’ is the Dixie Mafia.

single stack on August 23, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Somehow, Slick Willie will sandbag Obama. It’s just a matter of when and how.

Bitter Clinger on August 23, 2012 at 2:46 PM

I actually think this ad is a sandbag job. For one thing, it changes the subject back to the one the Obama is avoiding like the plague, and actually says that the election specifically isn’t about what the Democrats are trying to turn it into. It refers to a plan that so far no one has seen or heard, which raises the obvious question, “Plan? What plan?” It’s also delivered without energy or enthusiasm. If you could see his hands, he’d probably have his fingers crossed.

smellthecoffee on August 23, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Bill being who he is, the hilarious notion of him lying like this with a straight face makes you wonder what he’s up to. My sense is that he is mocking Obama with a lie so absurd that

a) he knows everyone will wonder wtf he’s talking about and
b) he suspects everyone will conclude he’s mocking the Emperor’s ridiculousness and his Baghdad Bob spokesmen.

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Bob’s your Uncle … I get it, Bill!

Jaibones on August 23, 2012 at 4:54 PM

Bill Clinton, accused of rape, charged with sexual harassment, disbarred for contempt in said harassment case, etc – *that* Bill Clinton? The one giving the opener at the DNC convention – the party which is trying to hang some nonsense by a guy from Missouri around the necks of the entire GOP – *that* DNC?

Just asking.

Midas on August 23, 2012 at 3:19 PM

Maybe he just wants a shot at Fluke….

dentarthurdent on August 23, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Sorry but lowering the taxes of Romney and other Wall Street bankers isn’t going to help the middle class. In every society, greater inequality between classes damages long-term economic growth and reduces stability- not the opposite.

bayam on August 23, 2012 at 4:26 PM

Really? Define “inequality”.
Why do you libtards think that having the top 10% of the wage earning and tax-paying population pay 90% of all income taxes is not a “fair share”? If you actually want to solve “inequality” then EVERYONE needs to pay the same share in taxes, since we all theoretically get the same services from the government.

dentarthurdent on August 23, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Poor B.O. Bless his heart.

Galtian on August 23, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Soon the Dems will decide that receiving a welfare check is the same as employment and “VIOLA” we have full employment.

conservativecaveman on August 23, 2012 at 6:37 PM

Don’t try to confuse dems with facts, they don’t care. They LIKE to lie.

dogsoldier on August 23, 2012 at 7:12 PM

Update: In the paragraph after the first graph, I mistakenly wrote “full unemployment” when I meant “full employment.” I’ve corrected it; thanks to Dogsoldier for the correction.

I dunno.. It seems Obama’s goal is full unemployment!

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on August 23, 2012 at 10:44 PM