Economic Recovery?

New job numbers today, and confusion reigns as both sides spin.  Maybe my job is to relay the facts and a little context.  Here’s a chart that shows how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve got to go.  It shows job losses per month over the last two years.  Bush year in red, Obama in blue.

As you can see, things have been getting better since Obama took office.  This is in no small measure because the stimulus saved maybe 1-2 million jobs.  However, a few caveats to the new good news:

  1. About 50,000 of the 160,000 jobs created last month were temporary Census survey hires.  Still, that’s 100,000+ new Americans working–and spending.
  2. The Obama stimulus money is about used up.  It did its job, but now demand has to recover on its own.
  3. The percentage of unemployed people who have been out of work for six months or longer has actually gone up, to a record 44%!  Also, unemplyment is much higher for people without college degrees (15%+), African-Americans (20%, I think), and other particularly vulnerable sub-populations.
  4. In order to get back to full employment we have to add the 10 million jobs we’ve lost; i.e., the total area within the curve above.  Even if we keep adding 150,000 jobs per month, like we did last month, it would still take about 6 years to get back to where we were before the recession began.  Even more will be needed really, because of population growth.  
  5. In most recessions, employment is the last part of the economy to pick up, as companies are reluctant to hire until they’re sure the recovery is for real and until they draw down the excess inventories they built up during the recession. ing
  6. As Gary pointed out the other night, we could fall back into recession, (a double dip recession), if, say, commercial real estate crashes or something else shocks the system.

Basically, the economy will still be in the toilet for the election, and maybe for the 2012 election, too.  More than HCR, scandals, tea parties, or anything else the media obsesses over, this will determine the extent of Democrats’ losses in November.

Update:  I love graphs.  How bad has this recession been?  Worse than any since WWII.  Witness:

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