More On Today’s Awful Jobs Numbers

Paul has already noted how weak the December jobs report was. This paper, released yesterday by the liberal Economic Policy Institute, includes several charts that provide a valuable overview on the Obama jobs disaster.

This chart shows that if the workers who have dropped out of the labor force were still looking for work, the unemployment rate would be virtually unchanged since 2009:

Labor Force 006

As of November, it would have required 7.9 million new jobs to return the labor market to its pre-2009 (i.e., pre-Obama) condition:

Jobs Shortfall 02

The EPI paper also makes a powerful argument against comprehensive immigration reform, which involves importing tens of millions of new workers, the large majority low-skill, but a few in higher-skill categories:

One often-hypothesized explanation for the weak U.S. jobs recovery is “skills mismatch,” meaning workers do not have the skills for the jobs that are available. There has been a great deal of careful research on whether skills mismatch is a driver of today’s weak jobs recovery, and the strong consensus is that the weak labor market recovery is not due to skills mismatch, but instead to the fact that businesses have not seen demand for their goods and services pick up in a way that would require significantly more hiring. …

It is useful to note that if today’s high unemployment were a problem of skills mismatch, we would expect to find some sizable group or groups of workers now facing tight labor markets relative to 2007, before the recession started. The “signature” of skills mismatch would be shortages relative to 2007 in some consequentially sized group or groups of workers. Figure H shows the unemployment rate by education level, both in 2007 and over the last 12 months for which these data are available (December 2012–November 2013). It shows that workers with higher levels of education currently face—as they always do—substantially lower unemployment rates than other workers. However, they too have seen large percentage increases in unemployment. Workers with a college degree or more still have unemployment rates 1.8 times as high as they were before the recession began. In other words, demand for workers at all levels of education is significantly weaker now than it was before the recession started.

Given that this analysis of unemployment comes from a liberal Washington, D.C. think tank, it is not surprising that it blames government “austerity” for part of the jobs shortfall. This is a claim commonly made on the Left:

One thing that sets this recovery apart from other recoveries is the unprecedented loss of public-sector jobs. Since the recovery began in June 2009, the public sector has lost 728,000 jobs. However, public-sector employment should naturally grow as the population grows. To keep up with population growth over this period, public-sector employment should have increased by around 750,000. That means the total gap in public-sector employment today is around 1.5 million jobs. Nearly 30 percent of that gap has occurred in local government education, which is mostly public K–12 employment.

Several points can be made in response. First, EPI’s own numbers indicate that only 1.5 million out of a total jobs shortfall of 7.9 million, or 19%, is in the public sector. Second, total government spending increased from $4.9 trillion in 2007 to $6.1 trillion in 2013, a jump of nearly 25%. If that is austerity, I would hate to see profligacy. Third, the assumption that K-12 education jobs should have risen with population growth is fallacious, since public school enrollment has been stagnant in recent years.

And all of the above doesn’t even begin to address the fact that most of the jobs that have been created in the past five years have been part-time.

Today’s jobs numbers were bad, but they are even worse when viewed in the context of the comprehensive failure of the Obama administration’s economic policies over the past five years.

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