Current job-growth streak is long, but not very strong

The sign-maker misspelled "middling." (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The sign-maker misspelled “middling.” (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The jobs figures for February are out, and you’ll hear a lot about how this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in at least 70 years. You might hear less about how this is also one of the weakest stretches of job creation during that same time.

Since the end of World War II, according to federal data, there have been 15 periods of uninterrupted job growth lasting more than one year. The current period ranks 11th out of those 15. Nine of those periods lasted at least 24 months; the current period ranks eighth out of those nine.

What’s stunning about these low rankings is that the numbers aren’t adjusted for population. The average monthly job creation in the current period, which dates back to October 2010, is 203,000. Compare that to, for example, the average of 232,000 between November 1964 and March 1967 — when there were about 121 million fewer people living in the United States. Or compare today’s average to the 205,000 average between August 1972 and July 1974: The average monthly figure was virtually the same as now, but the country had about 108 million fewer people. In fact, the only period of sustained but smaller job growth that can’t be explained by population differences was during George W. Bush’s presidency. So things during Barack Obama’s presidency haven’t been as bad as then, just worse than most other expansions.

Looking at the numbers this way helps explain a few things. First and foremost, it helps explain why wages are so stagnant even though hiring has been steady. “Steady” isn’t the same thing as “strong,” and the economy needs much stronger job growth if it’s to put upward pressure on wages. That simply isn’t happening.

Politically speaking, it explains why the candidates for president — including Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side — speak in such urgent terms about the economy. While the Obama administration and its apologists pump sunshine about the long streak of job growth, everyone else sees it for what it is: a trend line that’s long but far too shallow. Even Hillary Clinton, who more than anyone else in the race is running as the candidate of continuity with the current administration, talks about the need to strengthen growth and “move toward a full-employment economy.” As in, we aren’t in a “full-employment economy” now, despite more than five straight years of job growth. Much of the anger that Donald Trump and Sanders, in particular, have tapped into stems from the so-so economy we’ve seen not just for seven years but for 15 years.

Below are a couple of graphs to help illustrate how mediocre this “historic” job-growth streak really is.

Here are the raw numbers, not adjusted for population:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

This graph is adjusted for population by using the annual average for the years in question. Note that these are not weighted and are purely for illustrative purposes:

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau

Reader Comments 0

98 comments
R K
R K

The point in the article about the size of the country would make more sense if the author restricted it to the working population.  


Who cares if there are lots more old people now who are on pensions than there were 30 years ago; the issue is how many people are there of working age who actually need a job and how many of these people are getting jobs.  

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

For those of you whining below about a lack of transportation spending, the federal government spent $68 billion in 2009 and $73 billion in 2015.  Not exactly being slashed, blocked, obstructed, etc.

Stop being ignorant.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Wow, LilBarry claims Obama inherited a recovery!


Of course Kyle won't do anything to address the ignorance in his own dugout.


Oh, and yes, this unwillingness to help people in your own party is part of the reason we now face a possible Trump presidency.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Finn-McCool

The people who determine such things say that the recession ended in June 2009 (it started December 2007).  Our President Bush took action to fix the financial meltdown in 2008 (TARP); all the money borrowed by (or forced on) banks was quickly repaid.

Are you actually ignorant of all that?

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Well, it was just this past Friday that Hillary said "The U.S. needs a new bargain on the economy."

Perhaps that's because she knows Obama's is in the basement? 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

We should stop accepting that there are "jobs Americans won't do". If it weren't so easy to just vote Democrat and keep enjoying the fruits of others' labors, we'd all be better off. Heck, we might even be able to shift spending from wasteful parasite-maintenance programs to those infrastructure projects!

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout And your buddy Cruz and the Anarchy Caucus tried to block funding for federally funded infrastructure funds after funding ran out last August. Mmma Pelosi forced a vote while Cons were busy having a pie throwing contest in the House.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout So how many Americans pick crops in the fields? Heavy labor construction jobs? Unloading trucks and freight cars? Manual labor? Americans would rather cry"It's hard".

ByteMe
ByteMe

Selectively choosing your timeframe to get the outcome you sought.  

Why not choose, say, 1929-1940 instead for a comparison point?  The Great Depression was the closest match to what happened in 2008-early 2009 when the credit markets froze up, not any of the typical business cycle recessions in between.  Debt-driven recessions are much worse than any business cycle recession and the effects last longer.


But you probably knew that.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Depression? Hardly. The recession ended in June 2009. Unemployment peaked at 10%. It took seven years for unemployment to drop to pre-recession levels because of higher taxes, new mandates on businesses, over-regulation, and various attacks on the rule of law by Democrats.

No one is surprised you don't know that--leftists seem determinedly ignorant of such matters.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@LilBarryBailout I already knew that you really didn't understand the difference between a debt-driven recession and a business cycle recession.  Continue to show your partisan ignorance for us, though.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

That's a nice little story you Obama apologists have concocted.

Your klown prince inherited a recovery and turned it into an excuse to grow the handout state. Democrats have taken the last seven years off and leached off the productive. Time to go back to work, parasites!

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

The reason you think "debt-driven recessions" like 2008-09 are worse than other recessions and cite the Great Depression as an example is because Democrats worsened and lengthened both.

You need better examples!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@ByteMe "Why not choose, say, 1929-1940 instead for a comparison point?"

Because the data only go back to 1939, as you'd know if you clicked the first link in the post. And economists commonly cite the period after 1945 because the war years were so atypical of conditions since then.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

So you contend that there has been no job growth based on your "statistics"? You know what they say about statistics?


Did you include in your numbers the effect on jobs by the deadlocked Repubs in Congress? They finally passed a transportation bill after at least 6 years; transportation spending allows jobs to be created. Same for the state (Ga) passing a real transportation tax that will create more jobs, encourage movement and more commerce.  


Did you include in your analysis of the recession that is still occurring in the rest of the world? China? This does not affect our economy?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Americans need real jobs, not government-created jobs. And the federal government spends near $4 trillion as it is and runs the biggest deficits in history (other than previous Obama deficits).

Government spending is not holding back job creation. Liberal fascism is. Obama's net neutrality rules, for example, have cut into telecom infrastructure investment.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@LilBarryBailout "liberal fascism"... like you understand either term.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Too funny.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@LilBarryBailout Those government dollars pays American workers whether construction, material suppliers, technology advances, ...Oh and those people buy food, entertainment, and they do not take government handouts. The results are roads and bridges that have a useful and productive long term legacy, unlike repubs favorites...war. Each dollar spent on transportation turns over 7 times. Their benefits are multiplied...and provide jobs.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@RoadScholar @LilBarryBailout

We spend more hundreds of billions more "government" dollars (actually, tax payer dollars) now than we did before the Obama regime.  So spending isn't the problem.  If you want to shift some of those hundreds of billions from Obama's new handout programs to infrastructure, I agree that would be a more productive use of tax payer money.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "So you contend that there has been no job growth based on your "statistics"?"

No, that's not at all what I wrote. I wrote that job growth has been slower than during previous expansions, which is true, not that "there has been no job growth," which is plainly false. Try engaging the actual argument.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

2009: 33 million on food stamps

2015: 46 million on food stamps

Tell us more about that awesome job growth, Obamabots!

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Race is obviously very important to you. You must be a leftist.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@RoadScholar @LilBarryBailout

That's right.

Con policy proposals are race-neutral.  They apply to and benefit all, equally.  Living under con leadership leads to harmony, unity, and prosperity.

Leftist policy proposals often pander to race, gender, or other group membership.  Leftists seek to divide people into groups and then provide handouts based on membership.  They are divisive and hateful.  They cause friction in the economy and retard growth.  No wonder the economy and race relations are worse on Obama's watch than on W's.

lvg
lvg

Wating to read how Cons responsible for job growth since W drove country off the cliff.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Sanders and Clinton are saying Obama's economy sucks. Not sure why you'd expect Real Americans to take "credit" for the effects of higher taxes, higher spending, higher deficits, doubling the debt, massive increases in government regulation, degradation of the rule of law, government cronyism, etc.

lvg
lvg

@LilBarryBailout So no Con efforts to improve economy. Maybe Lil Barry forgot who controls Congress

Cogito Ergo Erras
Cogito Ergo Erras

Not sure if everyone reads this bit of news, but Obama "regrets" filibustering Alito's nomination. Strange that he seems to have had that change of heart only recently. Wonder why?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Penses He's using Trump's new Mantra....now that I know more, my views have changed!

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Penses McConnell should go on the senate floor and say he will not consider Obama's nominee, but will promise that he will apologize for that decision in ten years.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Trophies for everyone and anyone who complains is a hater.  Give Obama a trophy, that seems to fit in with the participation trophy meme in America, a trophy for mediocrity.  Rubio gives a multiple victory speechs for coming in third and Obama can't stop talking about his less stagnant economy.  If you don't get your self satisfying/self awarded trophy you have the right to stage a protest.  You can even start a twitter hash tag #Iwantmytrophynow.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Revenue went up after Our President Bush lowered tax rates. Have you not checked the data on that? Still going with the know-nothing libtard talking point?

King Tut 0603
King Tut 0603

Kyle-

There is a reason why hardly anybody bothers to comment on your blog.  This silly stuff you write is an embarrassment to the AJC.  You bend over backwards to try and make the President and Democrats look bad; it makes you look small.  If this was happening under a Republican President you would be sending him flowers everyday.  Please show some integrity and cover another story. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@King Tut 0603 Oh, and you are but the latest person to conflate number of comments with number of readers. As I've noted before, there is zero correlation between the two.

bu22
bu22

@King Tut 0603 Sanders.  Trump.  Your argument has been Trumped.  (and if you need it explained to you, we wouldn't have a socialist and a fascist reality TV show host making serious runs at the presidency if people were satisfied with the economy and the direction it is going).

King Tut 0603
King Tut 0603

@xxxzzz @King Tut 0603 

When in our nation's history have people ever been this upset over unemployment below 5%.  When have people been so upset over a constant monthly stream of job creation?  Why was no one upset when the job losses started in 2007 and early in 2008?  How can it be that people would find this time to be upset when all indicators would suggest our economy is far better than it was seven years ago and it is far better than any other country in the world? What we are seeing is the result of people being mislead and lied to and it is at a point now where people have no idea what a fact or the truth is.  In part, thanks to people like Kyle, which is my original point. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@King Tut 0603 "Why was no one upset when the job losses started in 2007 and early in 2008?"

"No one" was "upset"? Really???

"What we are seeing is the result of people being mislead and lied to and it is at a point now where people have no idea what a fact or the truth is."

Yes, which is why I'm trying to correct the record and show why the White House crowing about the economy is so far removed from people's personal experiences, to the point candidates in both parties are talking about the need to get the economy moving again. These are the facts and truth with which you refuse to engage.