There are two reasons why President Obama rushed to the microphone on Friday shortly after the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released relatively good news (by recent standards) that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% in January, while the economy added 243,000 seasonally adjusted jobs.
The first was to beat up on “Congress” for not yet extending to December 31 the payroll tax cut currently set to expire at the end of this month. He won’t say so, but Obama’s complaint with “Congress” is really with Harry Reid and the Democrat-controlled Senate. The place where congresspersons work, i.e., the House of Representatives led by Speaker John Boehner, passed a 12-month extension in mid-December, but backed down after Reid insisted on the Senate’s two-month version.
Obama’s second motivation was to try to make the country forget his February 2009 promise that “if I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” ABC’s pathetic “Fact Check” is trying to claim that Obama was only referring to the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the nation’s housing situation, but not to the economy as whole.
Nice try, guys. Not even Obama believes that. Last week, the Republican National Committee distracted itself from what it seems to believe is its primary mission, i.e., sealing the GOP nomination for Mitt Romney (never mind that the only candidate polling ahead of Obama in the general election when this column was prepared was Rick Santorum), long enough to remind everyone of Obama’s promise. In reaction, the president’s people surely put that 2009 statement on the agenda for his Super Bowl Sunday interview with Matt Lauer, who recalled it in the context of the economy as a whole (take that, Fact Check). Obama, as expected, told Lauer that “I deserve a second term, but we’re not done.” We sure aren’t.
On the jobs front, January was the best month in the past nine, following eight which the press would have considered more than enough justification for unfettered gloom and doom in a conservative or Republican administration with such a high accompanying unemployment rate. The monthly average of 80,000 jobs seen during the first four of those eight months was woefully weak. Given how many Americans are unemployed, under-employed, and discouraged, the 170,000-per-month average during the four which followed really wasn’t that much better.
Obviously, one month like January doesn’t signal a genuine jobs recovery, but it’s a start — and to be clear, the Heritage Foundation’s point that a truly recovering economy would be adding about 350,000 seasonally adjusted jobs per month is well taken. For context, the economy under Ronald Reagan added an average of over 250,000 seasonally adjusted jobs per month during the first 2-1/2 years after its related recession ended, the population-adjusted equivalent of 350,000 per month today. The private-sector component of that population-adjusted performance is over 330,000. The analogous Obama administration averages: 55,000 overall and 75,000 in the private sector.
One favorable development from Friday’s report is that skeptics finally decided to start looking at the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) jobs numbers instead of automatically buying into the government’s seasonally adjusted results as the starting point for getting to the gospel truth.
It’s about time. Someone besides yours truly needs to start making up for the almost scandalous degree to which the press completely ignores the raw data. I’m convinced that some media members responsible for covering the economy and business are oblivious to the significance, and in certain cases even the existence, of the raw data. Many, if not most, don’t seem to realize that the raw numbers form the basis for what goes into the government’s seasonal adjustment machine.