President Obama cited Friday's Jobs Report to reassure his supporters at a rally this weekend, telling them that "we learned companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months." Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that employment rose by 170,000 workers since the previous month. The addition of workers to the economy is undeniably welcome, but Obama's self-congratulatory tone turns out to be misleading.
Ignoring for a moment that Obama is comparing October with "the last eight months," a time which obviously falls during his own presidency, he is projecting a false image that the current policies have been the reason for economic growth. Obama's campaign has emphasized perseverance with the current administration toward the goal of an economic recovery.
Despite exhortations to remain with the current policy, voters should not be fooled by marginal gains attained since 2009. In the 2008 recession, the American economy shed far more jobs than it had in previous downturns. At least some job growth is almost unavoidable after taking a hit that large.
While both sides have contented themselves with one simple statistic — the current percentage of unemployed Americans — it is necessary to take a broader, historical view in analyzing an administration's economic policies. While the post-WWII recovery is, famously, the best and fastest recovery in the past one hundred years, every consecutive recovery has achieved higher job growth than has the current recovery under President Obama.
This recovery should be naturally more robust than many of the previous ones, including those under Bush and Reagan, because so many more jobs were lost at its beginning. Just as the abnormal unemployment rate was negated by the unleashing of the American economic energy after WWII, the 2009-2010 economy should have seen naturally higher numbers as the economy righted itself. Instead, we got 4.3% average job growth —half of the average of previous 20th-Century recoveries.
Should we all be thankful for a less-than-grim October jobs report? Of course. Should we be persuaded to "stay the course" with the president? Given how he stacks up to his predecessors, probably not.