Economically, Could Obama Be America's Worst President?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession ended four years ago. The right measure and comparison for Obama's record is not comparing the recovery to the recession, but comparing this recovery with other recoveries from other recessions. By that measure, its is clear that Obamanomics has produced the worst recovery since the Great Depression.

Peter Ferrara
6/02/2013 @ 8:00AM
Forbes

The recession ended four years ago, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. So Obamanomics has had plenty of time to produce a solid recovery. In fact, since the American historical record is the worse the recession, the stronger the recovery, Obama should have had an easy time producing a booming recovery by now.

Obama likes to tout that we are doing better now than at the worst of the recession. But every recovery is better than the recession, by definition. So that doesn’t mean much.

The right measure and comparison for Obama’s record is not to compare the recovery to the recession, but to compare Obama’s recovery with other recoveries from other recessions since the Great Depression. By that measure, what is clear is that Obamanomics has produced the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression, worse than what every other President who has faced a recession has achieved since the Great Depression.

In the 10 previous recessions since the Great Depression, prior to this last recession, the economy recovered all jobs lost during the recession after an average of 25 months after the prior jobs peak (when the recession began), according to the records kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. So the job effects of prior post Depression recessions have lasted an average of about 2 years. But under President Obama, by April, 2013, 64 months after the prior jobs peak, almost 5½ years, we still have not recovered all of the recession’s job losses. In April, 2013, there were an estimated 135.474 million American workers employed, still down about 2.6 million jobs from the prior peak of 138.056 million in January, 2008.

Ronald Reagan suffered a severe recession starting in 1981, which resulted from the monetary policy that broke the back of the roaring 1970s inflation. But all the job losses of that recession were recovered after 28 months, with the recovery fueled by traditional pro-growth policies. By this point in the Reagan recovery, 64 months after the recession started, jobs had grown 9.5% higher than where they were when the recession started, representing an increase of about 10 million more jobs. By contrast, in April, 2013, jobs in the Obama recovery were still about 2% below where they were when the recession started, about 2 ½ million less, or a shortfall of about 10 million jobs if you count population growth since the recession started, as discussed below.

Obama’s so-called recovery included the longest period since the Great Depression with unemployment above 8%, 43 months, from February, 2009, when Obama’s so-called stimulus costing nearly $1 trillion was passed, until August, 2012. It also included the longest period since the Great Depression with unemployment at 9.0% or above, 30 months, from April, 2009, until September, 2011. In fact, during the entire 65 years from January, 1948 to January, 2013, there were no months with unemployment over 8%, except for 26 months during the bitter 1981 – 1982 recession, which slayed the historic inflation of the 1970s. That is how inconsistent with the prior history of the American economy President Obama’s extended unemployment has been. That is some fundamental transformation of America.

Moreover, that U3 unemployment rate does not count the millions who have dropped out of the labor force during the recession and President Obama’s worst recovery since the Great Depression, who are not counted as unemployed because they are not considered in the work force. Even though the employment age population has increased by 12 million since the recession began, only 1 million more Americans are counted as in the labor force. With normal labor force participation rates, that implies another 7.3 million missing U.S. jobs, on top of the 2 ½ million missing jobs we are still short from when the recession began, for a total of about 10 million missing jobs.

If America enjoyed the same labor force participation rate as in 2008, the unemployment rate in December, 2012 would have been about 11%, compared to the monthly low of 4.4% in December, 2007, under President George Bush and his “failed” economic policies of the past. We will not see 4.4% unemployment again, without another fundamental transformation of America’s economic policies.

The number of unemployed in January, 2013, at the end of President Obama’s first term, was 7.7 million. Another 7.9 million were “employed part time for economic reasons.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, “These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.”

Another 2.3 million were “marginally attached to the work force.” The BLS reports, “These individuals…wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. [But] [t]hey were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.”

That puts the total army of the unemployed or underemployed at nearly 18 million Americans in January, 2013. They are all counted in the BLS calculation of the U6 unemployment rate, which still totaled 13.9% that month.

But the Shadow Government Statistics website also includes in its “SGS Alternative Unemployment Rate” long term discouraged workers, those who wanted and were available for work for more than a year, and had looked for a job, but not in the prior 4 weeks. That is how the BLS U6 unemployment rate was calculated prior to the changes made in the early 1990s under the Clinton Administration. Including these workers as well raises the SGS unemployment rate for April, 2013 to 23%. That seems more consistent with how the economy still feels for the majority of Americans, despite Democrat Party controlled media cheerleading.

This utterly failed jobs record of Obamanomics reflects the more basic reality that the economy has not been growing under President Obama. In the 10 post depression recessions before President Obama, the economy recovered the lost GDP during the recession within an average of 4.5 quarters after the recession started. But it took Obama’s recovery 16 quarters, or 4 years, to reach that point. Today, 21 quarters, or 5 plus years, after the recession started, the economy (real GDP) has grown just 3.2% above where it was when the recession started. By sharp contrast, at this point in the Reagan recovery, the economy had boomed by 18.6%, almost one fifth.

Obama’s economic performance has even been much worse than Bush’s. Jeffrey H. Anderson, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, writes in Investors Business Daily on January 13, “Prior to Obama, the second term of President Bush featured the weakest gains in the gross domestic product in some time, with average annual (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth of just 1.9%, [according to the official stats at the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)]” But average annual real GDP growth during Obama’s entire first term was less than half as much at a pitiful 0.8%, according to the same official source.

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