Political Animal


June 03, 2011 8:50 AM Jobs landscape deteriorates, unemployment up

By Steve Benen

Late yesterday, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt offered some measurements to evaluate the monthly job totals. If May showed gains above 250,000, it’d be “very good.” If the totals were above 200,000, it’d be “relatively good.” Above 150,000 could be characterized as “coulda been worse,” while 50,000 would mean “2010 redux.”

It’s that last one that looks right this morning.

The similarities are striking. In the first four months of 2010, we saw steady and encouraging growth in the job market, and optimism was high. Then May came and the job market faltered badly. This year is starting to look exactly the same — four months of increasingly strong numbers, followed by a punch to the gut in May.

The Labor Department reported on Friday that the United States added 54,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, following an increase of 232,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent from 9.0 percent in April.

While any job gains at all are welcome, the pace of job growth thus far has been too slow to reverse much of the damage wrought by the Great Recession, which has left more than 13 million unemployed workers in its wake. For the last few months economists had been predicting that the economy was finally gathering steam and that a sharper bounce-back was imminent, only to be disappointed again and again.

The lackluster employment figures for May, as in months past, are largely attributed to temporary factors — like the automotive supply chain disruption caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the severe tornadoes that shuttered businesses in the Midwest.

Economists are hopeful that as these troubles pass, a robust recovery will finally burrow out from beneath the rubble.

In keeping with the recent trend, it’s the public sector that’s dragging down the larger total. In all, 83,000 private sector jobs were created in May, while 29,000 jobs were lost in the public sector at the same time, thanks to budget cuts at the state and local level.

Any sane person should look at these numbers and conclude that the economy desperately needs a boost. Instead, the only topic of discussion allowed in Washington is about debt reduction — which takes money out of the economy and makes unemployment worse.

Also discouraging, the totals from March and April were also revised downwards, adding a little insult to injury.

And with that, here’s the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction — red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration. (The chart is now smaller to fit the redesigned website.)

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on June 03, 2011 8:57 AM:

    So, instead of splashing a healthy dose of cold water on the face of the patient to stimulate him, we're going to waterboard him until he gives up everything that is dear to him?

    Yeah, makes sense to me.

    I think some people got John Maynard Keynes confused with Allen Keyes.

  • John Dillinger on June 03, 2011 8:58 AM:

    Six months after the Republicans take the House the economy starts to worsen. And no, they didn't have to pass any legislation, all they've had to do is prevent measures from strengthening the economy from passing, and inject uncertainty into the market by threatening the shut down the government.

  • Brenna on June 03, 2011 8:59 AM:

    Obama will get blamed for this, but the repubs were voted in to get job growth going. They ran on that. They've done nothing but destruct since taking over. Will the media cover that aspect? Oh, hell no.

  • Holmes on June 03, 2011 9:01 AM:

    Obama is f'd if he doesn't change his economic message, advisors and policies in a hurry. Austerity dooms a recovery during a recession, and he needs to stop pretending to be a Republican.

  • just bill on June 03, 2011 9:02 AM:

    hey, boner, where are the f**king jobs?

  • berttheclock on June 03, 2011 9:14 AM:

    er, Peter C, we have the lowest federal taxes since 1984. How many jobs were created by the Bush tax cuts? How much "trickle down" has been trickled down to create work in this country? The RepuGs could have ZERO taxes and the jobs will still be in foreign lands. This debt was created by the Bush tax cuts and his unpaid for Iraqi Adventure Group Travel Plan.

    However, Obama is foolish to keep spending monies in Afghanistan. Please, Mr President, bring our troops home and cut this unneeded outpouring of cash into a bottomless pit.

  • Holmes on June 03, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Anyone pretending we don't have a demand problem, or that the economy hasn't been a disaster for better part of the last 10 years, is f'n clueless.

    Supply-siders are proven frauds. The last 30 years, save the late 90's, has been a disaster for this country.

  • Holmes on June 03, 2011 9:31 AM:

    Bush had one of the worst records of job creation in Presidential history. Median household incomes were dropping before the recession even started, despite overall economic growth. That is a first in American economic history.

    Income inequality and disparity exploded. We now know that most of the growth during the Bush years was a result of the mortgage industry's shady business practices and Wall Street's house of cards.

    And for the record, in 2009, we paid the lowest level of taxes since 1950.

  • berttheclock on June 03, 2011 10:12 AM:

    Ah, those mean Democrats in the House of Jan '07 started the debacle. Attacking demand side is really a Laffer in more ways than one.

    BTW, Mr Laffer, would you, please, provide a cite for that made up Obama quote?

  • chi res on June 03, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Surely you're aware of this?

    Silly me, apparently not.

    Please provide a link to the quote of Obama saying that he wants to "make sure that some people don't make 'too much' money."

  • berttheclock on June 03, 2011 11:17 AM:

    Oh, you mean the time Charlie Gibson wrongly said the reduction in capital gains taxes produced more revenue, without adding, such gains have, historically, been for very short periods.

    But, thanks, for taking off, today, from your work at newsbusters to solve CAPTCHA.

    As for your canard of "who controls Congress", look at the Reagan budgets which were passed with a coalition of "Boll Weevil" Southern Democrats, all of whom, later switched to the RepuG Party and RepuGs. Reagan and Stockman got their budgets passed without control of the House. Phil Graham is the perfect example of how this was passed. A DINO who shilled for Reagan.

  • chi res on June 03, 2011 11:18 AM:

    Seems you conveniently left a key word from the transcript out of your quote, Peter. That would be: (Laughter.) It comes right after the sentence you have in bold, the only one that supposedly makes your point.

    Seems that everybody else knew it was a joke. It's part of the real problem with you hardline right-wingers: no sense of humor.

    Here's the transcript: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/04/obama_in_quincy_ill_on_wall_st.html

    And as to your other "report" on the presidential debate, here's the actual quote:
    OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair. And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive, and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools. And you can't do that for free.

    Transcript here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/04/democratic_philadelphia_debate.html

    Obama's point on "fairness" was, obviously, that because of low capital gains rates, millionaires and billlionaires were paying lower tax rates than their secretaries. Most people don't think that's fair. That's why we have a progressive federal tax system.

    You did your best to distort the truth, but it just didn't work.

  • chi res on June 03, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Hey mods, my brilliant, painfully-researched rebuttal makes no sense now that you've removed Peter C's latest lies and distortions!

  • Joe Friday on June 03, 2011 11:51 AM:


    Even when we had 95 percent tax rates, the total tax take was the same as today, about 20 percent of the GDP.

    Yes, but then, the wealthy were paying their fair share of the tax burden.


    If you look at Bush's record, the unemployment rate until 2006, when the Democrats took over the House, was about half of it was today.

    Except unemployment can be low for TWO reasons. First if the number of unemployed declines, or secondly, if the national labor pool shrinks due to the long-term unemployed who are no longer counted. As you can see from the following chart, there were MILLIONS of jobs lost starting in 2001, and all through the previous administration, as a result of failed RightWing public policies:



    Since then, spending, taxation, and deficits have exploded, as has the unemployment rate.


  • Joe Friday on June 03, 2011 12:45 PM:

    My previously posted link is not firing for some reason:


  • John B. on June 03, 2011 1:24 PM:

    Save your digital ink, people. Like a schizophrenic off he meds, "Peter" is trapped in his own world. He has no interest in reality.

  • Seibeerinn on January 20, 2012 3:57 AM: