Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unemployment and Jobs

Last week I had to drive down to Colorado Springs to help a friend and ended up listening to some AM talk radio while out on the Eastern plains. It’s always amusing to me to listen to either an extremely right or left wing talk show person, though I did realize I lean more liberal since the conservatives ring less true to me overall. Not completely untrue, but less true.

In any case, I heard someone talking about unemployment and jobs, and couldn’t tell if this was schtick or reality. So I decided to look at things a bit.

Unemployment rate by the numbers:


and in graph form.


Not a great job under the Obama administration. I don’t necessarily blame him for the 2008 numbers, perhaps not all of the 2009 numbers, but he does share some blame there. We’re still 0.5% higher than when he took office. Near the end of the Bush administration we could all tell that things were trending down and we were in for a rough time.

However I’ve heard over and over that we have more and more new jobs every month, though at a much lower level than we’d like. Instead of 300,000-400,000 new jobs, I keep hearing numbers closer to 100,000.

However when I look at the employment levels for this year using BLS statistics I see this:

Month in 2012 Employment Difference from previous
Jan 141,637,000

Feb 142,065,000


Mar 142,034,000


Apr 141,865,000


May 142,287,000


June 142,415,000


Jul 142,220,000


A net increase this year, but not a lot. The total is 583,000 jobs.

If we look back to Jan 2008, we had employment at 146,397,000, which was substantially higher than where we are now. In Jan 2009, we had 142,187,000, which is about where we were in Mar/Apr of this year.

Throughout 2010/2011, we were gaining, after a low point of Dec 2009 with 137,968,000.

Clearly we’re on the right track. The question is, would we do better, accelerate this growth under different policies? I’m sure we could do worse, but if we had lower taxes, less regulation, would the economy grow more with more jobs?

That’s a tough question. I think about articles like this one on the cheapest generation, and on the ways in which people have viewed the world, and I’m not sure business would be investing more and increasing output if we had different policies. I’ve found across my life, in various businesses, that people take advantage of opportunities, regardless of the taxes. Regulation can prevent some investments, but are they significant?

The much talked about Keystone pipeline, which I oppose, talks about creating jobs, but it’s hard to tell how many. Backers say 20k jobs, which is a good number, but noise in the grand scheme of trying for 300,000 jobs a month. Other estimates are lower, in the 5k range, which sounds better. The other problem is that many of those jobs are temporary. A few years, but not permanent. Then we’re sending lots of money to Canadian companies. I like Canada, but not that much.

I don’t think Obama has done much, nor this Congress, to really grow jobs. They’ve been too busy fighting for sure, but they are both talking about changes to corporations, primarily large corporations. I think that’s a huge mistake, and it leads to discussions like this one (which go nowhere).

The reason I think it’s a mistake is simple. Large firms, let’s say with 100 or more people, numbered 108,000 or so in 2008. They employed, in aggregate, about 78 million people. Small firms, those with less employees number over 5,000,000, and employed about 40 million. Less, but let’s add in those companies that don’t act as employers (self-employed). There’s 21,000,000 of those.

We should be supporting small companies, and trying to effect real change with smaller companies. Stop giving breaks or talking about any tax loopholes for larger companies. They can profit already and don’t need more help.

1 comment:

Zebraman said...

Good analysis and data visualization, Steve. Keep up the great analysis! -Kev