Political Animal


July 08, 2011 8:50 AM Wake up, Washington, jobs landscape is deteriorating

By Steve Benen

The first several months of 2011 showed steady and strong improvements to the nation’s employment picture, and there were reasons for optimism for the near future.

That optimism is now long gone. If May’s job numbers were a punch to the gut, June’s job numbers felt like getting kicked while already on the ground.

Expectations were that the job numbers would tick higher after an awful May, but the opposite happened — in June, the economy created even fewer jobs, totaling just 18,000 for the month. The unemployment rate also went up, reaching 9.2%.

All told, the private sector gained 57,000 jobs, while the public sector lost 39,000 jobs, due entirely to budget cuts at the state and local level.

Yes, the economy is still adding jobs, but it’s hard to overstate how dreadful this recent turn of events is. Just to keep up with population growth, the economy should be adding over 150,000 jobs a month. To bring down the unemployment rate quickly, we’d look for 300,000 jobs a month or more. A report showing 18,000 jobs created in the month is just terrible.

Making matters even worse, the totals from April and May were also revised downwards, adding insult to injury.

If our political system were in any way sane, elected leaders would look at these numbers and conclude that the economy desperately needs a boost. Job creation should be the first, and arguably only, priority on the minds of policymakers. Instead, the only topic of discussion allowed in Washington is about debt reduction — which takes money out of the economy and makes unemployment worse.

This jobs report is a flashing red light. It’s a wake-up call. It’s a screaming siren. Pick your metaphor — the point is, we have a jobs crisis, not a debt crisis. The longer we’re stuck in the wrong conversation, the longer it will be until conditions improve.

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. Also note, some of the numbers from early 2008 have been revised slightly.)

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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  • DAY on July 08, 2011 8:56 AM:

    "There's bad news and good news- bad for the 'Murrican Pipple, but, since it is entirely Obama's fault, it is good news for my re-election!"

    (Enter Republican name of your choice)

  • Lee Gibson on July 08, 2011 9:00 AM:

    The Republican plan to destroy the economy in order to destroy Obama appears to be succeeding admirably.

  • Schtick on July 08, 2011 9:00 AM:

    Repubs only care about re-election and the rich corporate teats they suck on everyday.

  • atlliberal on July 08, 2011 9:01 AM:

    How many more jobs will be lost if we cut 4 trillion from the federal budget? Now is not the time to be cutting, and negotiating with hostage takers usually doesn't end well. I realize Republicans don't consider federal jobs "real" jobs, but they are wrong, and we would be much better off if we stop listening to them.

  • Reality Bites on July 08, 2011 9:03 AM:

    I'm not sure what you are trying to prove here. Doesn't the blue still net out to job losses? And what's the time frame of this "home made chart?" Wasn't there positive job gains among the red bars during the period prior to the time frame you show on this chart?

    Now we know why the President is trying so hard to strike a monumental deal... he's in oneheckofa pickle!

  • c u n d gulag on July 08, 2011 9:04 AM:

    I can't tell you how f*cking p*ssed off I am!!!

    Jesus H. Christ having a coronary, Obama is sounding EXACTLY the same as the Republicans - debt reduction this, limit entitlements that, everythings on the table, not the time to raise taxes, blah, blah, blah-dee-blah-blah...

    But NO talk about jobs.
    Remember, you f*cking asshole - the things too many of us DON'T have?

    Maybe you'll f*Cking figure this out, Pres, when you're f*cking out there f*cking looking for one.

    But, I'm sure you won't even have to look. Your payback will be great! You'll be a black Galt.
    AND another f*cking book deal, no doubt.
    Well, I ain't buyin' THAT one, you smooth-talkin' f*cking asshole!


    RIP USA - from Keynesian economics and growth to kleptocratic oligarchy and cirtual serfdom - and all in less that 80 years!

    This wouldn't have happened if there were any Democrats still alive!

    This current crop - DINO'S ALL!!! *

    As a matter of fact, these Democrats aren't a crop. They're f*cking fertilizer.


    *Ok, there are a handful of exceptions.
    Literally - a handful.

  • Bill on July 08, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Agree that short term focus on budget cutting is insane. Hopefully payroll tax deduction will be part of debt package. That said, your piece might also note 'headwinds' that blew up this spring - gas prices, Japanese nuclear catastrophe and resulting parts shortage for big chunks of manufacturing sector/electronics industry, plus floods and tornados in the US. This is not to make light of two really crappy reports, but would not be surprising to see substantial improvement in July/August. If not then truly time to hit the panic button.

  • Steve LaBonne on July 08, 2011 9:11 AM:

    Obama richly deserves to lose by a landslide in 2012. But the alternative is even worse. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this country is in very deep trouble. Where the slide ends, I don't know, but the future is not bright.

  • Alli on July 08, 2011 9:17 AM:

    @CUND: I don't know where the fuck you fucking been but every fucking time Obama gives a speech he's talking about fucking jobs and the long term growth of this fucking country. Do you see the Republicans running to help? maybe you haven't fucking noticed but there are several hundred people in congress who could fucking take up a fucking jobs bill on their own - like the fucking Dem caucus.

    but hey, this what some of you wanted right? let the Republicans do all the damage and then the american people will have an epiphany and vote liberal for evah. WELL THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MEANTIME! People lose their jobs and the economy gets worse. This is also a lesson for those saying Obama should just stand still and let it all go to hell with a government shutdown. THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES LIKE THIS.

  • Alli on July 08, 2011 9:20 AM:

    And this is why Republicans get away with their treasonous behavior. At the end of the day, Democrats, liberals turn on their own and blame their leaders for not forcing the other party to participate. You want to talk about taking on Republican framing @CUND?look at your own comment. Why should Republicans do anything or fear anything when they can use Dem talking points to bash Obama.

    I apologize to Steve and other readers for my language.

  • Palimpest on July 08, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Steve - don't you worry that little head of yours about unemployment. The voters sure aren't, especially when it comes to the 2012 re-election campaign:


    “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”

    Ladies and gentlemen: David Ploffe, gainfully employed and letting people know that unemployment simply won't matter.

    If this is Obama's top political advisor, then Obama is in trouble.

  • steve duncan on July 08, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Pencil and apple futures are a definite "buy" recommendation.

  • c u n d gulag on July 08, 2011 9:37 AM:

    Read Krugman today, and then let me know what you think.

    And if you read my rant, you'll notice that he's NOT the only one who I'm calling a DINO. Remember the 'handful of others' line?'

    But Obama is framing pretty much everything in Republican terms, whether you like looking at it or not.
    And that's a large part of the problem. Anything Keynesian is out the window. Little to no talk of major stimulus. No raising taxes on the wealthy- only letting them expire. The need to look at entitlements. And from what I've read, Obama's the one who's putting SS on the table.
    That's "democratic?'

    I know you're an ardent supporter of the President's, (and so have I been, and voting for a Republican is insanity, so he'll have my vote next year,) and he's done some great things the first two years - especially a Senate that has a Ben Nelson and an Evan Bayh supposedly in your corner.

    But, unless he can turn things around with or without the help of the other Democrats, how long do you think ACA, Ledbetter, DADT, Tuition help, etc., will last with a Republican President and Congress?
    They'll make a big deal out of turning all of those around and repealing by April 15,2013, and claim some sort of 'we're now free from Obama's oppressive taxes strangling this great nation!' BS.

    You're probably right and maybe I need to be more measured in my critisism of the President, Alli - but maybe you might want to consider being more measured in his defense, too.

  • ceilidth on July 08, 2011 9:40 AM:

    It just shows how totally detached from reality both Washington and, unfortunately, much of the American public are. Just saying "jobs" doesn't create them. Voting for people who want things to get worse doesn't create jobs. Putting more people out of a job whether or not it's a private sector or a public sector job, makes the job situation worse, puts less money into the economy and will cause a double dip recession. It also makes it utterly clear that both parties are more into posturing than job creation.

  • Schtick on July 08, 2011 10:06 AM:

    I want to leave this country so bad, but with the crap money I get from SS I can't afford it. And I can't save for it either cuz with the price of stuff lately, I don't think I can save enough for a bus ticket.
    Thanks all you freakin DINOs. If you are all gonna act and do as repubs, we might as well have repubs in office. At least then when we get screwed, it won't be by a bunch of limp dicks.

  • gus on July 08, 2011 10:20 AM:


    To the Republicans, attempts at rescuing the economy in 2009 were Too Much.

    They've spent the past two plus years crying, "Oh Noes! The Socialism Burns!"

    Why are we sleeping in the bed they made?

    The Donkey better Buck Up now.

  • June on July 08, 2011 10:25 AM:

    @Cund gulag - this is the major quibble I have with your posts - I get the impression you think the President rules by fiat, and can single-handedly pass legislation. Take a look at what you wrote:

    And that's a large part of the problem. Anything Keynesian is out the window. Little to no talk of major stimulus.

    There is zero chance of another stimulus bill being passed through the House and Senate right now. Why? Because Republicans/Teabaggers own the House, and the Senate is packed with the likes of Rand Paul and assorted Conservadems - no way you get sixty votes in the Senate. Talk of another stimulus would be just that -time-wasting talk. (And btw, in giving the GOP a two-year extension of the unfunded Bush tax cuts, Obama actually snuck in a second stimulus as the makeup of his terms - but our side just fixates on the tax cuts - no kudos to Obama for actually being clever enough to get another stimulus in through the back door.)

    No raising taxes on the wealthy- only letting them expire.

    That's just plain inaccurate. The Prez has talked at length about closing tax loopholes and ending certain deductions that wealthy individuals enjoy -- this means their taxes would go up.

    The need to look at entitlements. And from what I've read, Obama's the one who's putting SS on the table.

    Yes, this one is causing a lot of "blog panic," and I'm not sure what the end result will be, and yes, admittedly I'm nervous about it, but from what I've heard, Democrats are looking at making the kinds of cuts that will cut the fat from SS and Medicare - e.g., putting a stop to things like hospitals double-billing, and stuff that allowed criminal Republican governor Rick Scott to rip off Medicare. Of course Republicans will lie about the nature of the cuts. But will we help them spread the mis-information? I hope not.

  • ohhenery on July 08, 2011 10:27 AM:

    If you have a yard and an extra hundred, hire someone to spruce it up a little. That'll help someone's unemployment for a day. Good for the neighborhood. There's a lot of "properties" out there that could use a little sprucing up. (Who owns them?) If you have a nation of overgrown parks full of dry, combustible debris, hire some able bodies to make fire lines to help the firefighters keep a step ahead of the problem (the money's going to be spent either way). Lots of landscapes...

  • c u n d gulag on July 08, 2011 11:33 AM:

    I understand very well that the President can't rule by fiat.

    But, just because something can't get passed is NO reason NOT to talk about it. It's the best way to keep something out front so the MSM finally has to pay attention to it.

    You just did it yourself when instead of mentioning tax increases, you talked about closing loopholes. Do you think a call to increase the taxes on millionaires would be unpopular right now? Call it the "Wall Street Owes Us" act, or something better, and watch!

    Jesus, Republicans do this ALL of the time. They talk a 'Balanced Budget Amendment,' and have been for years. All of their "Family Values" BS led to DOMA - with some Democrats on board as well. Enough to get it passed.
    Who the hell was assaulting marriage so much that it needed defending? The gays. And now, they keep talking about repealling the repeal of DADT.
    Do you see what I mean, or am I still unclear?

    My point is the the Democrats do not message well - when they even do bother to try. And the one with the biggest megaphone, the one with the "Bully Pulpit," is now uttering phrases as framed by Republicans. The President I worked for, supported, and voted for.

  • c u n d gulag on July 08, 2011 11:41 AM:

    Also, thought I didn't specifically mention it, I did include what he got done as the Bush Tax Cuts were extended in the great things he got accomplished in the 2 years he had a great House, but a recalicitrant, or even fearful, Senate.

    Without the Bayhs, Nelsons, and that snake Lieberman, things might have turned out a lot differently. Oh, if only Teddy Kennedy were still around...

  • c u n d gulag on July 08, 2011 11:44 AM:

    Also, thought I didn't specifically mention it, I did include what he got done as the Bush Tax Cuts were extended in the great things he got accomplished in the 2 years he had a great House, but a recalicitrant, or even fearful, Senate.

    Without the Bayhs, Nelsons, and that snake Lieberman, things might have turned out a lot differently. Oh, if only Teddy Kennedy were still around...

    That's 4 in a row CAPTCHA, and I know I didn't get them all wrong.
    Kill CAPTCHA, for the love of a secular god!

  • June on July 08, 2011 11:54 AM:

    @Cund Gulag: Here's the thing - how do you think I know about Democrats wanting to close loopholes and everything else I mentioned if Democrats were not talking about it, if Obama were not using his "bully pulpit" to talk about it?

    Also, deficit/debt reduction is not a Republican idea; during his campaign, Obama pledged to cut the deficit by half by the end of his first time; how many times did he talk about going through the budget line-by-line and being prepared to make difficult decisions in order to reduce the deficit - many, many times. It is not a Republican frame he has taken up, it is his pledge that Republicans have illegitimately co-opted.

    I would rather the President spend his time working on solutions that can be passed, than pounding the over-hyped bully pulpit with ideas that don't have a chance in the world of coming to fruition. Democrats can talk about another stimulus until the cows come home, but that won't make it one iota more doable. What they are talking about is raising taxes, and that once-undoable idea now has a lot of public support and acceptance. I'd rather our Dems/Prez spend time on what has a chance of being done, rather than on stuff that sounds good and goes nowhere. Yes, Republicans waste a lot of taxpayer dollars and our time on nonsense - but I don't see that as something to be emulated. That's why they're always referred to as the "do-nothing Congress" when they're in power, and their nonsense bills often don't stand the test of time.

    As to your second post, fair enough.

  • bdop4 on July 08, 2011 11:55 AM:

    Just because it would be difficult (if not impossible) to enact a stimulus bill ATM doesn't mean that you should start agreeing with the opposition. Obama's doing that by completely buying into the GOP's "deficit reduction solution."

    Yeah, Obama "talks" about doing all sorts of stuff, all while "living within our means." Tell me Alli/June, how's that going to happen?

    I watched Chris Hayes interview Gene Sperling yesterday and Sperling's talking points were indistinguishable from the GOP's. All about reducing the deficit so businesses can feel comfortable and start rehiring. Please.

    Businesses won't lift a finger until they start receiving more customer orders. Unless, of course, it's subsidized by the government.

  • mr. irony on July 08, 2011 11:57 AM:


    6-months after the gop took control of the house..

    and the bush tax cuts were extended..

    job creation slows almost to a stop?

    what a coincidence..

  • June on July 08, 2011 12:23 PM:

    @bdop4 - "...tell me how's that going to happen...?" If you've been paying attention (watching the Weekly Addresses, following the speeches to business and non-profit groups, following the major speeches, reading the WH blog, checking in on Democratic representatives' websites - you might have a clue as to how that would happen.

    Next, I don't know who started the meme that Obama is buying into the GOP's ideas on deficit-reduction - deficit-reduction has always been a priority of his administration, he's talked many times about deficit reduction. Why are we so eager to join with the right-wing in perpetuating their memes? We complain about Obama and other Democrats not knowing how to do messaging, and we out here stink at it, too.

  • John B. on July 08, 2011 1:12 PM:

    "Just awful" job report? What to do, what to do? Here's a proposal: President Obama says, 'let's do something big like cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.'

    Whatever in god's name is the White House thinking? Republicans practically handed Obama his reelection when Paul Ryan and the congressional leadership attacked the core American safety net programs of the last three generations. Then, Obama and his economic advisors fumble it all away by AGREEING WITH THEM.

    And we thought Obama was smart.

  • CDW on July 08, 2011 1:52 PM:

    @cund gulag

    You go, guy! I'm behind you all the way.

  • CDW on July 08, 2011 2:02 PM:

    @john b
    I've concluded that obama can't possibly be smart. He's made too many really dumb moves. Smart is as smart does.

  • Susan on July 08, 2011 3:10 PM:

    The chart is so small the numbers are unreadable. It would be better to park it somewhere we could click through and make it bigger.

  • stmojo on July 08, 2011 3:44 PM:

    (The chart is now smaller to fit the redesigned website.)
    Yes, the redesign still sucks.

  • bookmanjb on July 09, 2011 1:54 PM:

    Well, at least we've gained a foolproof simpleton-test out of this mess:

    If you believe that cutting spending creates jobs...