United States Total Employment By President 1977-2012 (Misleading Statistics Lesson)

I was recently going about my daily business when I was confronted on the Facebook with the following chart…

"Reason" Magazine Net Jobs Analysis...From the Mercatus Project of George Mason University*

Taking these raw numbers without any context leaves a bit to be desired on the “providing insight” part of statistical analysis.

During the ensuing discussion, I noted a couple of things…first that 5 months remain in Obama’s first term. At the current roughly 200K-job/mo pace we are gaining, that’s another 1M on his tally.  As we’ll see in a moment, looking at *how* these numbers came about can be quite enlightening.

As noted in the charts, all raw data is provided from here.

We’re going to start with Jimmy Carter.  In the following analysis, we are calling the inaugural month the first one they are responsible for, going through December of their last year.   A quick comparison shows this to be very close to how Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center* did the original chart.

Non Farm Employment under Carter, Seasonally Adjusted

Non Farm Employment under Carter, Seasonally Adjusted, 1977-1980

From here you can see something that will be a consistent theme in the following analysis…a stagnant job market causing issues for a sitting President.  Employment peaked in March, 1980, having moving little since the previous summer.  The long, hot year and rising unemployment was too much for voters, and a change was made.

Enter the Reagan…

Total Employment Reagan, Seasonally Adjusted, 1981-1988

Total Employment Reagan, Seasonally Adjusted, 1981-1988. One can see how Reagan faced initial skepticism, but has gained long-term respect.

Here we see Carter’s “malaise” lasting well into 1983.  The lowpoint in unemployment, to Reagan’s great fortune, came late in 1982.  By the time the election rolled around in 1984, everything appeared to be on track.  Employment continued to expand throughout the rest of his term.  Then we had to pay for it, and the business cycle shifted again.

Total Employment, Bush the Elder, Seasonally Adjusted, 1989-1992

Total Employment, Bush the Elder, Seasonally Adjusted, 1989-1992. Here we see Bush the elder’s problem, employment peaking two and half years prior to the election.

Bush the Elder saw the peak of the Reagan “what’s debt?” economic expansion, and watched as nearly 2M jobs evaporated after peaking in Jun of ’90. Economic recovery in job form came only in the last few months before the 1992 election, not nearly enough to stop the new kid on the block from stealing heart and minds and electoral votes.

Next we get to *see* what the longest and largest and most stable economic expansion in U.S. history like…in bar graph form.

Total Employment, Clinton, Seasonally Adjusted, 1993-2000

Total Employment, Clinton, Seasonally Adjusted, 1993-2000. It really is pretty impressive, standing there all big and growing like that, Mr. President.

Like all the other graphs, I’ve marked the low and high point in employment during Clinton’s term. That’s how it’s done, folks.  Really can’t ask for more.  Well…maybe a bit less disgracing the Office of the President.  He did, however, get impeached for that.  Not sure if it was the peace and prosperity or the blowjob that got him impeached, but something sure made the Republicans mad.  It didn’t stick in the Senate, but did doom his VP.

Regardless, after so much peace and prosperity, we decided it was time for a change.   And oh what a change it was.

Total Employment, Bush the Lesser, Seasonally Adjusted, 2001-2008

Total Employment, Bush the Lesser, Seasonally Adjusted, 2001-2008. Bush was all over the map. First losing 3M jobs, then finding 9M building houses, then losing 4M in a year after the bust.

Oh George.  What can we do about this one.  If you want to see what a bursting real estate bubble looks like?  Click on that one.  First we see the extended era of peace end on 9/11.  Then we see the prosperity depart as we marched to war, hitting the  low employment point just as the mission in Iraq was “accomplished.”    Then we went on an easy-credit mortgage-fueled home-building binge, topping out with the greatest number of working Americans ever reported, 138,023,000 in January 2008.

By the end of 2008, 4M of those jobs had disappeared, and the Great Recession wasn’t nearly done.

Total Employment, Obama, Seasonally Adjusted, 2009-2012

Total Employment, Obama, Seasonally Adjusted, 2009-2012. Here we see the second half the Great Recession, with 4M more jobs going away in Obama’s first year. Since then there’s been a steady grind upwards, as we work to recover lost ground.

And this brings us up to the present data (Jul 2012).  Here we see the graphic and dramatic employment results of the Great Recession.  Four Million Jobs gone in the first year, reaching Obama’s lowpoint in February of 2010.  Since then (as the “failed” Stimulus package was implemented) we’ve seen steady employment gains over the intervening two years, finally within grasping distance of where from we started.

To wrap the whole thing together…here’s the whole thing together…

Total_Employment_1977_2012

Total_Employment_1977_2012. All of it. Together.

Here we see each and every year laid out side by side.  Now longer term business cycles become more apparent, and we see the huge dip created by the crash of 2008.

All in all I wanted to provide this analysis because I found the original chart to be so incredibly lacking in context as to be misleading.

* the Mercatus Project is funded (to a noticeable degree) by the Koch Bros, who have used some of the $100M they pledged to unseat the current President producing graphs like this…which don’t tell the whole story.  Often telling so little of the story, they might as well be lying.

"Reason" Magazine Net Jobs Analysis...From the Mercatus Project of George Mason University*

Taking these raw numbers without any context leaves a bit to be desired on the “providing insight” part of statistical analysis.

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