Some Thoughts On Employment Statistics

16 Jan

I hear the Liberals and Conservatives bandying about employment statistics, cherry picking this and that, a few provisos here and there.  It all gets very confusing.  So for ‘fun’ I decided to check out the Bureau of Labor statistics for myself, and it turns out that they have a very fine database that is not too cumbersome to go through and generate all sorts of plots and spreadsheets on a plethora of employment data.  If you are geekily inclined, check it out here.  I decided to generate some plots of my own and see how things look.

Here is a plot of Total Non-Farm Employment

First thing that strikes me is the symmetry about the month of Obama’s inauguration.  The numbers aren’t great now, but at least they are going in the right direction.  So … in January or ’09 there were 133.5 million people employed.  As of December ’11 there were 131.9 million, a net drop of 1.6 million.  So yes, there is the drop that the Republicans LOVE to hammer home, but if you look at the graph you see that there is a momentum issue. When Obama took office the economy was shedding jobs at the fastest pace of the cycle. The 131.9 million employed now is 2.7 million better than at the bottom of 129.2 million in February ’10. If you are walking into a disaster it takes sometime for policies to have effect and to change the momentum, so expecting things to turn on a dime when a president is inaugurated is just stupid. And 2.7 million jobs in the last two years ain’t bad.

Now the above numbers are for total employment, both private and government.  If we break things down between government and private employment things get way more interesting.

Here is a graph of Government Employment (Fed and State)

From January ’09 to December ’11 government employment has dropped by 610,000.  The big blip in the graph is the census hiring in ’10

Now let’s look at Total Private Employment

From January ’09 to December ’11 there is a drop of 1.05 million jobs.  From the trough to Dec ’11 there is a gain of 3.1 million jobs.

An important feature of these graphs is that while private sector employment is showing a rebound, government employment is steadily marching downward.  If McCain was president and had these numbers the Republicans would be hitting three points very hard,

1) McCain arrested the slide of the economy!

2) McCain ‘created’ 3.1 million private sector jobs in the last two years!

3) McCain shrunk government, helping to slash 600,000 government jobs!

Seems the Republicans are really getting what they want, it’s just the wrong guy at the helm.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think things are great right now, but they would be a whole lot worse if McCain was president … and they would be a whole lot better if the Tea Party infusion into the House of Representatives had never happened.

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Economy, Politics


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