By John Lott
There has been no recovery in the job market during the Obama recovery. Despite all the cheerleading by the Obama administration and the media, job creation has been horribly sluggish. The jobs created recently are noteworthy only in comparison to the lack of jobs created during the rest of the “recovery.” In contrast to other recoveries over at least the last half century, job creation has never been more anemic.
When the new employment numbers came out on Friday, Austan Goolsbee, the head of the President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, boasted about "the solid pace of employment growth in recent months" and that "The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years." Headlines in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times were equally glowing, trumpeting "solid growth" and "strong growth."
During the 23 months since the Obama recovery started, an average of 23,000 jobs a month have been created. The same 23 month period into the Reagan recovery saw that an average of 285,800 jobs were added each month.
So what about the last three months? Goolsbee brags: "We added more than a quarter million jobs a month over the last quarter." But that number fails to reach even the average monthly job creation rate under President Reagan. Indeed, during the Reagan recovery, 857,000 or 991,000 jobs were created in the two best months, the number of jobs created in those individual months dwarfed those produced during this entire last quarter.
Depending on the measurement chosen -- the survey of businesses (the Establishment survey) or workers (the Household survey) -- between 6.3 and 7.5 million jobs were lost during the recession. Yet, the Establishment survey only shows some 535,000 total jobs created during the recovery, a meager fraction of what would be needed to get back to the recession employment levels. The Household survey paints an even bleaker picture: in addition to jobs lost during the recession, another 304,000 jobs were lost during the recovery. A graph of the changes in jobs shown here illustrates the incredibly flat job growth under Obama.
Why has the unemployment rate fallen if there are so few new jobs? It is simple: because 5 million people have given up looking for work and thus completely left the labor force during the recovery. Just since August, 2 million have left the work force.
Alas, the problem is even worse than these numbers indicate. The jobs created from June 2009 through April 2011 have almost all been temporary service jobs. Of the 535,000 new jobs, 500,000 were temporary jobs. Thus, just a measly 35,000 were permanent jobs. To put it differently, up until this last month, there had been no net increase in permanent jobs during the recovery.
The graphs I provide here show the monthly change in jobs using both measures of the total number of people employed since the beginning of the recession. Doing that shows that the job growth has been extremely flat even during the recovery.
Remember last year was supposed to be the long awaited “Summer of Recovery” for jobs? In May 2009, President Obama even declared that the Stimulus had started working and that improvement in the job market was near. By September 2009, Vice President Biden was declaring: “In my wildest dreams, I never thought it [the stimulus] would work this well.” But the graphs show virtually none of the lost jobs have been recovered.
Mr. Goolsbee has quite often had a tendency to pick and choose the data and time periods to twist the facts around (see here and here), but no matter what, it should be clear: this recovery is not adding many jobs.
John R. Lott, Jr. is an economist and author of the revised edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010).