The Washington Post

The big jobs picture

Kevin Drum looks at today’s disappointing jobs numbers and comes up with a useful chart that dramatizes the entire job-creation record of Obama’s first term, one that illustrates it by total nonfarm employment over time.

The big picture isn’t pretty. But as Kevin notes — and this is small consolation indeed — employment is “now officially higher than it was when Obama took office”:

Larger version here. The chart dramatizes that the economy was in free fall when Obama took office. It bottomed out in February of 2010 and then employment slowly climbed back over the months; now it has just exceeded where it was over three years ago. Kevin doesn’t include January of 2009 here, because Obama took office late in the month.

Romney has frequently assailed Obama’s policies as a failure, based on the “net” jobs lost on his watch, which factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost before those policies took effect. That metric has been widely questioned by independent fact checkers, but Romney continues using it, anyway. Still, that number has declined over time with the recovery, and Romney has simply revised it downwards over time from month to month. At one point it was 2 million. More recently it was 1.7 million. Even more recently the number became 800,000. And so on.

Now the number has crossed into positive territory. So presumably Romney can no longer claim there was a “net” job loss on Obama’s watch, right?

Wrong. Romney does factor in January 2009 job loss into his calculation. Which is why he released a statement today blaring: “During President Obama’s time in office, the nation has lost 572,000 jobs.”

By the way, even if the jobs numbers cross into positive territory with the first month factored in, which may well happen before Election Day, Romney will still have a pretty good talking point at the ready: “Obama’s policies have failed. It has taken us over three years to get back to the point where we were when the President took office.”

It’s going to be a tough six months.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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