Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

When bad economic news is good news

jobandunem.jpg

The unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent in April. But the economy added 290,000 jobs that month, which is a pretty good gain. On the face of it, that seems odd: Why would the unemployment rate rise while the country was adding jobs?

What you're seeing here is an artifact of the way we calculate unemployment. The unemployment rate is the percentage of the workforce actively looking for a new job but unable to find one. During long recessions, discouraged workers stop looking. They've already sent a résumé to every place in town, so there's really nothing to do but wait. When that happens, they drop out of the unemployment rate.

But now the economy is getting better and new employment opportunities are presenting themselves. Which brings us to the third relevant number: Labor force participation edged up by 0.3 percent. That is to say, workers returned to the economy. And that's why the unemployment rate rose: We're now adding enough jobs that previously discouraged workers are returning to the labor force to vie for them. But until they actually get one of those jobs, they go from being invisible in the unemployment data to one of the unemployed.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 7, 2010; 10:04 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Secret holds are not the problem (but the Democrats would like to make them the problem)
Next: Some thoughts on newsweeklies

Comments

Is there a way to accurately count the number of people who are unemployed but not actively looking for work?

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | May 7, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

BBQChicken: That would be subtracting the U3 from the U6 unemployment rates.

U6 supposedly represents total unemployment--presumably every one of working age who is not permanently disabled, underaged or retired.

http://portalseven.com/employment/unemployment_rate_u6.jsp

About 17% right now. It was 7% in 2000.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Some pundits say the increasing unemployment rate overshadows the increase in jobs or the improving economy.

Well, it seems to me that if people are encouraged enough to start looking for jobs (in numbers enough to increase the unemployment rate), then that is good news for Obama politically, not bad. This means people are actually seeing an improving jobs situation, and as we now know, many of them are being hired.

The pundits are wrong, for now. The true danger for Obama is in what happens over the new few months. If those job seekers don't find jobs, they will go home even more discouraged than before. But if they instead find jobs and even more people become encouraged, then this could be the start of a goodwill snowball for Obama and the Dems.

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 7, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

@Kevin

Actually it appears that the U5 rate is what I was looking for. That one includes basically everyone who CAN work, but isn't.

U6 also includes those who want full time work but do have part time employment.

Thanks for the link...that's a good rundown of the different measures!

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | May 7, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Ezra- despite the enjoyment I took out of your roundabout way of explaining this anomaly, it's far, far simpler.

The headline unemployment rate is calculated by BLS in the form of a household survey.

Payroll gains is the actual number of people who were added to public/private sector wage earning positions.

trust me

Posted by: rt72 | May 7, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Ok...so I guess I should have asked the question. I can't seem to find it anywhere.

What's the current U5 rate? I can find U3 and U6 pretty easily, but the U5 seems a tad elusive.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | May 7, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

U5 Unemployment rate:

http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/blsln/lnu03327708

Not pretty. Formatting wise, I mean. And not a chart.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

We should start reporting U6.

U3 is a political creation for lying politicians to pretend things are getting better (remember the crowing about how it was going down?) when they aren't.

Of course, cheerleaders like Ezra happily point to U6 whenever U3 doesn't give them the answer they want. It's okay, a lot of people have made a career out of confirmation bias.

Posted by: staticvars | May 7, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

The job changes vs unemployment rate factoid is a predictable story every month from at least a handful of outlets. We all get it by now.

A more interesting question - why do we use the metric in question when discussing the "unemployment rate"? As the comments here have shown, there certainly are other metrics available that might not need to come with a monthly addendum to make sense.

Posted by: patrickinmaine | May 7, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

It is absolutely amazing, a thing of beauty, to watch Washington Post columnists contort and twist logic, facts, information, common sense and numbers to put a happy face on the Obama administration. It doesn't matter what the issue is - unemployment, the economy, terrorism, Mideast peace, oil spills, environmental issues, floods - you name it. All those things that were bad, evil disastrous, etc, during the Bush administration are now suddenly okay. Hey - going from 4.5% to 9.9% is a GREAT thing! Itg means people are LOOKING FOR WORK!!!yaaayyy!! tHIS STUFF IS SO OBVIOUS TO THE ORDINARY aMERICAN, of whatever stripe, that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that these clowns are so desperate to curry favor that they will say absolutely anything. What we must now ask is whether they have information that the Civilian National Security Force is being readied and they don't want to be swept up in the collection and sent to the gulags.

Posted by: chatard | May 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

whenever i encounter the thoughts, a term i use advisedly, of dopes like chatard, i wonder how they learned how to type?

i mean, what ezra is talking about here is plain ol' everyday textbook information about what happens as a recession eases: in the early stages of recovery, employers take no chances on adding to payroll. when there are no jobs for offer, people become discouraged. as growth begins to take hold, some employers decide to take a chance and hire people. people become less discouraged.

it's the precise pattern that takes place every single frickin' recession and has nothing to do with the political stance of the president.

as for the serious conversation to be had, sadly, it would take a very long time of adding 290K jobs/month to get us to a health labor force participation number, and 290K is an awful lot of jobs to create per month (so many that we're unlikely to create that many most months).

really, we had poor job creation in general during the last expansion: it's really been about 11 years since we've had good job growth and i'm doubtful we're about to begin a '90s-like era of job growth any month soon.

Posted by: howard16 | May 7, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

@Kevin: Thanks again!

Here is the U5 (total unemployed in US) since Obama was elected:

2009 02 10.1
2009 03 10·3
2009 04 9.8
2009 05 10.3
2009 06 10·9
2009 07 11.0
2009 08 10.9
2009 09 10.8
2009 10 10.8
2009 11 10.7
2009 12 11·1
2010 01 12.0
2010 02 11·9
2010 03 11.5
2010 04 10.9

Curious numbers. It's good to note that it's decreased every month this year so far (since job numbers have started to turn the corner). I'll keep an eye on this for sure. I imagine the U3 and U5 get closer together in the coming months.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | May 7, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Adding 290,000 jobs is a good thing. As I understand it, we've got to add 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with population increases, so at 290k we're doing better than treading water.

While there seem to be a lot of people eager to jump on Ezra, the bottom line is that we added a pretty good amount of jobs. That there's disagreement between the number of jobs added and the unemployment rate that is generally used shows either a flaw in the way we calculate jobs added or the unemployment rate. As I've seen a number of critiques of the way we calculate the unemployment rate but *NO* critiques of the way we calculate jobs added, I'm going to assume that Ezra is correct that this is good news and we just have a problem with the metrics we're using.

Posted by: MosBen | May 7, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I honestly think there needs to be more economists in politics. I take an AP econ class in school and it totally makes sense that the U% would go up even when more jobs are made. Unemployment rate rising to 9.9% from a good happy 4.5% is a huge deal. that means we are edging ourselves back to a recession. Now this might be okay because Prices should go down as well if the economics fits. Of course sometimes that isn't the case... then we would be in deep trouble.

Posted by: ladisasterejp | May 7, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Ezra but if a Republican were President, I'm pretty sure we would not be getting your rosy spin.

Is it your intention to educate the readers or cover for a Liberal President?

Posted by: hz9604 | May 7, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Assuming for a moment that we stay on a trend for adding jobs at a decent rate each month, I wonder if there is any model that can predict at what point the previously discouraged workers are all back in the game, so that we don't see the job growth being offset by the returning job seekers.

To anyone other than a partisan bonehead like chatard, this job growth is extremely positive news for our economy. But for job seekers (including June graduates), it is depressing that the job market is becoming even more competitive, despite that fact that the number of hires is growing again.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 7, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

BBQChicken,

Your U5 numbers don't look like they are seasonally adjusted, whereas Ezra's U3 number is (notice how your U5 unemployment metric fell from 10.1% to 9.8% from Feb to Apr 2009 even as the economy wash hemorhagging jobs). The U5 unemployment rate has probably been flat in terms of a trend so far this year, much like U3. The gap between the two is relatively static - discouraged and marginally attached workers don't vary much in terms of absolute levels relative to measured U3 unemployment.

On the flip side of Ezra's comments, the unemployment rate in 2009 looked a lot better because labor force participation sank, and we're seeing some pay-back for that now.

Posted by: justin84 | May 7, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

you never disappoint Ezra!

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 7, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

another number not mentioned is the average work week went from 34 to 34.1. It shows some employers are still trying to squeeze more time out of employees. I expect the job number will continue to grow but I've got an interest question.

Let's assume illegal immigrants are legalized. Obviously that's not happening any time soon but what does that do to the number? Raise it? Lower it? No affect?


Also Ezra I don't remember but in the past did you when bringing up this subject on the first Friday of every month did you bring up the unemployment number inclusive of the "discouraged workers" that fell off of the number or not?

Just want to make sure we stay consistent here!

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 7, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

As someone pointed out, if this were a Republican in office, we would not be seeing the spin. The entire notion that you can put a good spin on a 9.9% unemployment rate is ludicrous anyway. Amazing that Dems are telling everyone how awesome this is while unemployment hovers around 10% for more than a half a year now.

Posted by: Bob65 | May 7, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

As someone pointed out, if this were a Republican in office, we would not be seeing the spin. The entire notion that you can put a good spin on a 9.9% unemployment rate is ludicrous anyway. Amazing that Dems are telling everyone how awesome this is while unemployment hovers around 10% for more than a half a year now.

Posted by: Bob65 | May 7, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what "spin" is involved in the fact that the job growth rate is the best in 4 years. Facts are facts. Dwelling on just the unemployment rate is one part of the picture, but that's all the Obama haters will focus on, in typical Faux News style.

Posted by: novatom1 | May 7, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

If unemployment is at 9.9% or higher in November the Democrats are going to get slaughtered. No matter how much Ezra tries to explain it away to protect the Democrats. As someone said above I doubt if the spin from Ezra would be the same if the Republicans were in charge. I would also be interested in knowing how many of the new 290,000 jobs were private sector and how many were government. We already know that 66,000 of those jobs were temporary census jobs and we also know the government is growing by leaps and bounds so I expect quite a few were government jobs.

Posted by: RobT1 | May 7, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

It's suprising how many people think Ezra is shilling for Obama. He was very critical of HCR, what's in it, how it was managed etc. I guess it's hard to not sound like a cheerleader when the country went from a president that created a complete foreign policy and domestic economic disaster(the worst in 60 years) to a competent centrist who is trying to undo the damage.

Posted by: srw3 | May 7, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to many for a decent discussion of the issues. Very few blogs actually add to the story.

I don't understand why everyone has to think everything is "spin." If there's a positive story, that doesn't necessarily mean the writer is pro-Obama. If negative, same thing.

Strangely enough, with the US so intrinsically part of the world economy, the US president has less ability to change the economy than ever before. If Europe tanks and can't buy our goods, there's no way we don't go down with them (i.e., unemployment rises again).

Posted by: amaikovich | May 7, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

You're just giving the spinning top another spin to keep it from falling over.

If unemployment statistics were not rigged to prematurely delete those who stop looking (out of despair), the actual number of unemployed would be in the range of 12.5% today! The official acknowledged unemployment rate in California is 12.3%.

I am very pleased that jobs are being created, but this economy is a long way from normalization. As proof, wait until November.

Posted by: dh2003 | May 7, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

It's really interesting how this election will be (at least partially) fought over two contrasting, but equally accurate and compelling graphs. The Democrats will talk about (and show) the blue graph above -- (a steady shift from losing almost 800,000 jobs in a month under Bush to gaining 290,000 in a month under Obama) and the Republicans will talk about the red graph above (Unemployment rate increasing from 8 percent under Bush to almost 10 percent under Obama). The question will be whether the public actually feels the improvement -- right now that's an open question (for instance, the recent CBS poll had independents split down the middle on this).

Posted by: vvf2 | May 7, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Correction -- Republicans will cite the ORANGE line above, not red. Ha.

Posted by: vvf2 | May 7, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

When bad economic news is good news? I'm sure they had to crop Ezra's picture because he was wearing one of those stupid Obama shirts. What a cheerleader.

Posted by: peterg73 | May 7, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know what 'spin' is involved in the fact that the job growth rate is the best in 4 years. Facts are facts."

I think the idea is that if this were a Republican looking over a 10% unemployment rate, Ezra might be more dismissive of the "best job growth in 4 years" talking point.

4 years ago, the unemployment rate was 4.4%. 3 Years ago, the unemployment rate was 4.3%. 2 months ago it was 10.2%. 4 years ago the U6 unemployment rate was 8.2%. 3 Years ago it was 8.2%. Last month it was 17.1%, or an increase of over 100%.

It seems possible that Ezra might have taken a different approach with the "best job growth in four years" meme if this had been under a Republican president, and might have instead pointed out that the best job growth in four years doesn't mean nearly as much when you've had the most profound loss of jobs since the Great Depression (the invoking of which, by me, is another form of incomplete-context spin, for your meta-ironic pleasure). Ergo, best job growth in four years means something very different with 10.2% unemployment than it does with 5% unemployment.

And as Ronald Reagan once said, facts are stupid things.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

If a Republican was a president, he would be squandering a balanced budget and everything else with it. However, his numbers would be looking good since he would be carrying forward seriously positive numbers.

Posted by: pattr1 | May 7, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Republicans may not cite the orange line, per se. They may instead cite the job growth from 2000 to 2008, since the chart used above starts in April of 2008.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra,
You're a liberal prince (ooops - I might have spelled price wrong. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of pric-, but I can't recall now. Anyway Ezra, you would take any bit of bad economic news and turn it into good news for this administration. That is the kind of twisted journalism you learned in school, if you even went to journalism school. What other tricks and treats do you have in that bag of yours to report on. Oh yea I got one for you to lie about. How about this one ezra. Attorney General Eric Holder pulled off a miracle and showed his tremendous competence as attorney general in capturing the terroist who left his explosive vehicle on 42nd st. in NYC. What a guy! What do you think Ezra? Too exagerated or not enough?

Bob P

Posted by: landrperite | May 7, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra,
You're a liberal prince (ooops - I might have spelled price wrong. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of pric-, but I can't recall now. Anyway Ezra, you would take any bit of bad economic news and turn it into good news for this administration. That is the kind of twisted journalism you learned in school, if you even went to journalism school. What other tricks and treats do you have in that bag of yours to report on. Oh yea I got one for you to lie about. How about this one ezra. Attorney General Eric Holder pulled off a miracle and showed his tremendous competence as attorney general in capturing the terroist who left his explosive vehicle on 42nd st. in NYC. What a guy! What do you think Ezra? Too exagerated or not enough?

Bob P

Posted by: landrperite | May 7, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey Kevin_Willis, don't you remember the housing bubble and financial crisis, you know the one that burst and threw the economy into the worst recession in 60 years? Before the bubble popped, the economy looked better, unemployment was lower, etc but it was a mirage that disappeared when the housing and financial crisis, created mostly by Bush and the republicans, popped the bubble and the phantom gains all evaporated. I expect better arguments from you...

Posted by: srw3 | May 7, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Obama has been president for neary a year and a half, and the economy still is in sorry shape. Unemployment is higher now than ever in the previous administration. It's sad the president is so incompetent at everything other than reading from a teleprompter, and keeping enemies lists.

Posted by: JaredP | May 7, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra,
You're a liberal prince (ooops - I might have spelled price wrong. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of pric-, but I can't recall now. Anyway Ezra, you would take any bit of bad economic news and turn it into good news for this administration. That is the kind of twisted journalism you learned in school, if you even went to journalism school. What other tricks and treats do you have in that bag of yours to report on. Oh yea I got one for you to lie about. How about this one ezra. Attorney General Eric Holder pulled off a miracle and showed his tremendous competence as attorney general in capturing the terroist who left his explosive vehicle on 42nd st. in NYC. What a guy! What do you think Ezra? Too exagerated or not enough?

Bob P

Posted by: landrperite | May 7, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

rt72 is correct. The core reason for the discrepancy is that the unemployment rate is measured in a household survey and the job growth rate is measured by a survey of employers. Since both surveys have some error, they sometimes diverge.

The phenomenon Ezra describes in this post is real, but probably isn't large enough to explain the discrepancy between the findings of the two surveys.

We'll have to wait to see some revised numbers before coming to any conclusions about what actually happened in the job market last month.

Posted by: jeffwacker | May 7, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Instead of looking at U-5 and U-6 to see whether they undermine the President's spin on the increased unemployment number, instead of considering the 1.2 million temporary Census employees (up from approximately 500,000 ten years ago) and their effect on the employment numbers, Mr. Klein acts as a faithful stenographer for the White House Communications Office. Again.

Posted by: Rob_ | May 7, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_Willis, Republicans *could* cite the entirety of the 2001-2008 job figures, but it wouldn't be advisable on their part. The nation's job base grew at .28% per year under George W. Bush, the worst of any President since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression.

Posted by: vvf2 | May 7, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

srw3: What argument did you think I was making? Because I think you're thinking I said something I didn't say. Thus your inevitable disappointment.

Although I would argue that employment wasn't a mirage, because those people were really employed and getting paid, at the time. The current structure at the time was unsustainable, not illusionary.

As for the current economic crisis, it was created and is perpetuated and is studiously not being seriously addressed in a bi-partisan manner. Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Lacy Clay, Maxine Waters, Andrew Cuomo all had a hand in it, as did many, many Republicans. Oh, and the banks. And international financiers. And the European union. And so on.

I'd like to be all holier-than-though and put my hands on my hips and do that "better-check-yo'self-girlfriend" thing with my head and say that as long as folks believe the framing that it's the other guys ("you know, the guys in the red shirts!") that caused the problem, we're going to be stuck with the problem forever. But even if it was globally understood that both parties were neck deep in responsibility--and barely sole-of-the-shoe deep in accountability--for our current financial woes, I'm not sure how much would change.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

All you folks that are so excited about the month by month job numbers and hope that will help president Obama's politics, I suggest you worry about what the numbers are like in August and September when seasonal census workers do not have their temporary jobs any longer (I assume they can't hold out until 2020 for their next job) and when state governments and school districts lay off large numbers of employees.

Posted by: lancediverson | May 7, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

@vvf2: "The nation's job base grew at .28% per year under George W. Bush, the worst of any President since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression."

They probably wouldn't spin it like that. Rather, they'd focus on the numbers that looked good for them. Unemployment was down. Revenues to the federal treasury were up. That's kind of how it works. GDP was up by over $5 trillion.

Speaking of GDP, compare US GDP to France, the UK, Canada (and, for fun, Greece) (this link may be very long):

http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=ny_gdp_mktp_cd&idim=country:USA&dl=en&hl=en&q=GDP#met=ny_gdpahttp://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&ctype=l&strail=false&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_mktp_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:USA:FRA:DEU:GRC:GBR:CAN&tstart=-315619200000&tunit=Y&tlen=48&hl=en&dl=en_mktp_cd&idim=country:USA:FRA:DEU:GRC:GBR:CAN

The conclusion? Our GDP has continue to move upwards no matter what the prevailing political ideology, and no matter who was in office. It has also gone up so much higher than every other major country, the only conclusion is that there had to be an adjustment, and such a high rate of growth compared to the rest of the major industrialized nations was simply unsustainable.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, this is the big big problem with the blogosphere in particular and with discourse on the internet in general. There was a time when newspapers had a monopoly on delivering daily news and analysis. A kind of responsibility was part of being on the editorial board of a newspaper. We'd read things that we didn't always agree with; and at least hear an opposing view. The center would rule; moderation would be possible. There was no sleeping with the enemy b/c your political opponent wasn't your enemy.

Nowadays, you can just read what you want. Lefties can find their blogs, righties kind find theirs. And, once firmly in these enclaves of similarly thinking people, small omissions or small inaccuracies can easily become whoppers, and no one even notices. Hence 9/11 Truthers, or Birthers.

So if people can't even agree on what they see and read, it's no surprise we can't govern.

And that's dangerous b/c it makes the situation ripe not for democratic discourse (which gets nothing done), but for tyranny.

Posted by: Lonepine | May 7, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

KevinW:4 years ago, the unemployment rate was 4.4%. 3 Years ago, the unemployment rate was 4.3%. 2 months ago it was 10.2%. 4 years ago the U6 unemployment rate was 8.2%. 3 Years ago it was 8.2%. Last month it was 17.1%, or an increase of over 100%.

What about 2 years ago and 1 year ago? Somehow you studiously avoided the last year of the bush presidency when the job crisis really got underway.

Employers trim payrolls, as government report shows first drop in four years; unemployment rate slips to 4.9%. CNN Jan 2008

Both the number of unemployed persons (11.6 million) and the unemployment rate (7.6 percent) rose in January. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 4.1 million and the unemployment rate has risen by 2.7 percentage points.--BLS Feb 2009

I wonder why. In fact, the rise in the unemployment rate was higher during the last 2 years of the bush admin 4.3% to 7.6%, than they were during the first year of Obama admin even though Obama was trying to dig out of the hole that Bush put us in. You must admit that the economy can't turn on a dime, so most of the job losses during 2009 were a result of Bush policies, right? Obama's first budget was the 2010 fiscal year right?

Kevin:As for the current economic crisis, it was created and is perpetuated and is studiously not being seriously addressed in a bi-partisan manner.

I just don't think this is true. Deregulation of financial markets and non-regulation of derivatives was primarily a Republican accomplishment. I don't think dems would have come up with that on their own.

Defunding regulatory agencies was done by Bush.

Appointing know nothing/do nothing regulators was done by Bush. I mean really, Chris Cox did nothing to head off the banking crisis.

I mean, who bears responsibility for Brown's mishandling of Katrina? Bush who appointed him or the Senate that confirmed him. I would say Bush gets 90% of the responsibility for putting forward someone who was clearly unable to do the job he was in.

Sure, dems share some of the blame, but to say it was 50-50 when it was really 90 republican and 10 dem is distorting reality.

As for not addressing the crisis, who exactly is making legislating in the senate basically impossible, the dems or the repubs? Who has obstructed every major piece of legislation except for war funding (and they even delayed that)? Who is keeping Obama from filling executive branch positions that deal with the economic crisis among other things?

A pox on both your houses just doesn't reflect reality.

Posted by: srw3 | May 7, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Kevin,

The reason our GDP is so much higher than European nations is because our population is so much higher. The U.S. is more productive on a per person basis than the euro nations, but not nearly as much as the chart suggests.

Also, using nominal GDP inflates the trend line substantially due to inflation.

Real per person GDP shows a clearer picture of economic peformance.

I'd also like to say that high rates of growth don't *require* an adjustment. If imbalances are created during a growth phase (e.g. too much housing and housing backed credit), then you have an adjustment. But let's say there was never any housing bubble. In GDP terms, that would have meant that the growth rate from 2002-2007 would have been perhaps 2.6%/yr instead of 2.8%, and we'd almost certainly still be growing now provided another imbalance didn't take housing's place.

Posted by: justin84 | May 7, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

it's honestly quite remarkable to see some of the ridiculous piffle people are spouting here. considering that it's the left - including ezra - that has been arguing for months that we need more stimulus, that we aren't doing enough for unemployment, it's utterly amazing that there are clowns commenting here as though they had an insight that somehow, ezra is cheerleading for obama when he points out good job growth is good job growth and totally typical of this phase of a recession/recovery cycle.

the overall level of unemployment is unacceptable. the current jobs report is good news. what's so hard to understand?

as for kevin willis, who at least is smarter than your average right-wing numbskull who posts here, it's worth remembering that job growth was so shoddy under bush that the unemployment rate was low in conjunction with a decline in the ratio of the adult population with jobs, leading to a theory that millions of baby boomers were retiring because of how well of they were: in short, the unemployment rate then (as now) was an incomplete picture.

indeed, the best picture is the ratio of employed adults to total adults, and that number isn't so grand right now either....

Posted by: howard16 | May 7, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

srw3: "Somehow you studiously avoided the last year of the bush presidency when the job crisis really got underway."

I simply assumed you'd already know that, and I was right!

"I mean, who bears responsibility for Brown's mishandling of Katrina? Bush who appointed him or the Senate that confirmed him."

Well, call me crazy, but I'd say Brown bears 90% of the responsibility. A: he is the one who did a bad job. B: he's the one who took the job he knew he really wasn't qualified for.

"Obama's first budget was the 2010 fiscal year right?"

Yeah, I'm not saying Bush policies did not have an negative impact, or that the Republicans aren't responsible. I just think it's a 50/50 (or 45/55, but I think 90/10 (with your side being favored) takes a very rose-colored view towards the home town team. But maybe I'm wrong. If so, I'm confident you will vote accordingly. :)

"As for not addressing the crisis, who exactly is making legislating in the senate basically impossible, the dems or the repubs"

The Republicans. But the (present-day) Democrats, in the end, aren't seriously about meaningful legislation. Blanche Lincoln, perhaps. Chris Dodd? Not so much. I will be happy to be proved wrong, but I don't think I will be.

"A pox on both your houses just doesn't reflect reality."

It may not reflect your reality. I'm fairly confident it is a pretty good reflection of objective reality, over time. But maybe not. I'm just one guy, looking at things at a distance. However, until I see something compelling to suggest I'm wrong, I'm going to stick with my cooperative blame theory.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 7, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Ezra is a liberal blogger, not a journalist, and post after post confirms the fact. How about charting back to January 2007 when Pelosi and company took over Congress and proceeded to drive down the economic fortunes in order to elect a Democrat as president in 2008.

Posted by: georgiarat | May 7, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Where did this guy get his education?? There is NOTHING good about this report if you read beyond the headline. What is the matter with these people ? Either they will say anything or are just stupid ! Maybe he should try to get a job that requires something besides words !

Posted by: mct1 | May 7, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

jesus, the propaganda jungen are just getting stupider and stupider as the comments move along.

do, please, show us georgiarat just how it is that nancy pelosi drove down our economic fortunes: one would really like to know. here i was thinking the bursting of an asset bubble supported by extensive leverage resulting in the mother of all cash calls nicking every advanced economy in a significant way, but what do i know? i just examine reality, and i'm sure that in parallel universe land, this was all nancy pelosi's doing in a way that georgiarat will make clear.

but it could be that mct1 has the stupidest comment of the day: 290K new jobs is great news under any circumstances, whether the middle of a boom or the beginning of a new growth cycle. saying that really, other than 290K new jobs, the jobs report got nuthin' is about as witless as one could imagine.

Posted by: howard16 | May 7, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Basing your thoughts on the economy via unemployment and jobs created is a poor barometer on performance. First are jobs created an actual count by auditing the detail on social security payments made to banks or is it an estimate? Unemployment the same imprecise estimate. Your mortgage payment getting made has you take the job at Wal Mart when unemployment ran out. Wonderful you lose your job because of a factory built in China, then are forced to sell the goods that cost you your job. Your employed but falling farther behind. Much blame is due Obama for keeping Goldman Agents Bernanke/Geithner in charge of the banks not forcing them to lend by withholding borrowing approval, letting them rape people on credit card and other fees while regionals without credit cards go under in record numbers. IMO investment banks purposely bid the price of oil to $140 to cause more home defaults cashing out on their short position. That is illegal (Hunt Bros. did time) but no one at justice gives it a look. You hear about the subprime/sub A going into default but little about prime mortgages doing the same because of lower working class take home income caused by manufacturing reduction, higher than inflation home, health care, education and food price rises.

Posted by: jameschirico | May 7, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

@KW: "Somehow you studiously avoided the last year of the bush presidency when the job crisis really got underway."

I simply assumed you'd already know that, and I was right!

Well it doesn't say much for your intellectual honesty, ignoring the evidence that undercuts your case, just to score rhetorical points. I just expect better from you. After all you are not bilgeman, yet...;]


"The Republicans [are to blame]. But the (present-day) Democrats, in the end, aren't seriously about meaningful legislation. Blanche Lincoln, perhaps. Chris Dodd? Not so much. I will be happy to be proved wrong, but I don't think I will be."

Put the blame where it belongs. Blame the dems for not acting when the repubs stop obstructing and running out the clock. Look at the health care debate. 0 substance from the repubs, just stalling for political advantage. Bargaining to weaken the bill and then voting against it anyway. No principled opposition, just political calculation.

Look at Exec appointments. Stalled for months then being approved by large bipartisan majorities. No principled objections to the candidates, just mindless opposition.

Posted by: srw3 | May 7, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Best single month of job growth in 4 years, best year for growth in American manufacturing since the Clinton administration.

Some here argue that it is "spin" to describe those figures as positive. Some arguments are so self-evidently dumb that they undermine themselves and require no response whatsoever.

Job growth is good; rooting against (or denying signs of) recovery in the hope of a marginally better election result for your side is unpatriotic and un-serious.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 7, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

memo to Klein from communications office: Wow, l'il buddy, you got a posse on your tail on this one, as you did on the post where you helpfully suggested that foreclosure (started under Bush!), rather than jihadism, could have been behind recent bombing attempt. Don't worry about it. We'll take care of them. And the report that some of the biggest national employers (AT&T, Verizon, CAT, for example) will drop coverage under our new "Affordable Care" scheme, choosing to pay the fine instead, and thus herding tens of thousands into a government run medicaid like plan -- well, stay away from follow up writing about healthcare and such things won't come up. Invite to White House superbowl party next year. Could happen! good times.

Posted by: truck1 | May 8, 2010 4:59 AM | Report abuse


You could receive as much as $3,000 for installing energy-efficient doors, windows and insulation, find a qualified company http://ow.ly/1HXcE

Posted by: daphnejo | May 8, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

congratulations, truck1: you're late to the party, but you managed to achieve a level of total incoherence sufficient to make your comment the most witless of them all!

if you don't understand the typical cyclical behavior coming out of a recession - jobs grow and the unemployment rate grows as discouraged workers start to search again - then you don't have any business commenting on same.

Posted by: howard16 | May 8, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

This is FALSE BLS DATA that your USURPER Obama is saying ITS A BUNCH OF BS that you can continually expect from this government !!!!

CHECK THE BLS DATA YOURSELF AND SEE FOLKS
and you will see what a LIAR obama is.

go ahead CHECK IT YOURSELF

Posted by: yourmomscalling | May 8, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

This is FALSE BLS DATA that your USURPER Obama is saying ITS A BUNCH OF BS that you can continually expect from this government !!!!

CHECK THE BLS DATA YOURSELF AND SEE FOLKS
and you will see what a LIAR obama is.

go ahead CHECK IT YOURSELF THE GOVERNMENT CREATED 185,000 FALSE JOBS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: yourmomscalling | May 8, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Can you think of any other time when rising unemployment figures were hailed as a sign that discouraged workers were beginning to search again? And keep in mind the employment numbers are inflated because of temporary census workers. Let's see how many jobs these "discouraged" workers actually get in the next few months. My guess is very few, because businesses are running scared of this administration and its job killing demands. But my previous post was about the silence on the predictable consequence of "healthcare reform" -- that large companies would choose to drop their insurance. This is coming to pass, as reported by Forbes online, which reveals plans afoot at Verizon, T, and other huge employers. They must after all defend themselves against this administration. The only way seems to be to throw insurance overboard and with it the policies ("you can keep your insurance if you like it") of tens of thousands.

Posted by: truck1 | May 8, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

truck1,

Since you are unable to grasp the obvious logic of previously discouraged workers searching again and increasing the rate figure, and since you cite Forbes as your authority on the economy, here is a 2009 Forbes article that forecasts exactly what is happening now (job growth coupled with a higher rate of unemployment) and explains why a rising unemployment RATE will be good news:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/12/unemployment-recession-economy-business-washington-jobs.html

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 8, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Charlotte Lawyer says:expect more bankruptcy filings

Posted by: attorney2 | May 9, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The figure known as "U6" remains what it was in October, more or less. The return to the job search by "discouraged" workers is only good if they can find something. Not likely in jobs killing environment. But hey, some people who really made out well are AKPD Media and Message, the Axelrod firm that, per Politico, got more than 24 million dollars worth of contracts in pro reform advertising. Way to go and prosper off of legislation!!!

Posted by: truck1 | May 9, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

"The figure known as "U6" remains what it was in October, more or less. The return to the job search by "discouraged" workers is only good if they can find something. Not likely in jobs killing environment."

truck1,

You are just digging yourself an ever-deeper hole. We are not in a "jobs killing environment". Jobs are now being created at a healthy clip -- real private sector jobs. The best month for job creation overall in four years, and the best month for manufacturing in a dozen years.

Look at employment-to-population ratio. The figure has risen from 58.6 to 58.8. That number has been rising since December. This means we are creating jobs faster than we are growing our population.

Try and see if there are any subjects you can actually understand, and (in the unlikely event that such subjects exist) then please comment about those. It doesn't help your mindless one-dimensional anti-Obama cause to attack the administration on an area where there has been clear and quantifiable success.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 10, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company