Was Obama's Recovery the Worst in Modern Times, or the Best in 20 Years?

More

To illustrate exactly how near to high heaven the Obama recovery stinks, Mitt Romney put this graph in his official Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth. It shows the Obama recovery losing nearly 1 million jobs in the 24 months after the end of the recession, clearly the worst in modern history.

But here is the same graph, via Josh Biven at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, adjusted for private sector jobs only. Note the subtle change in the three blue bars to the right. Obama's recovery is suddenly the best in 20+ years. The key distinction between Romney's graph and EPI's graph is the public sector, which withered under Obama despite the stimulus.

This recovery stinks, okay? No debate there. But if Romney's contention is that its stinking is qualitatively different from the stinking of the last two recoveries, this particular statistic doesn't make his case.

The economy created more private sector jobs after the recession than we did in 1991 or 2011. Yes, this is like bragging about the heat coming off a warm ice cube. Yes, we fell further and had more room to catch up. But Obama's recovery doesn't look like either of the Bush recoveries because Obama oversaw total decline in government employment and Bush I and II oversaw a growing public sector.

Don't expect Romney to make that point. Following political campaigns to learn about economics is like following a magician to learn about physics.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In