America is better off when President Obama is out on the stump bloviating and boasting rather than in Washington actively doing harm. But the whoppers he just told the students at the University of Wisconsin are beyond the pale. Said our spinmeister-in-chief:
And the unemployment rate is now down to 5.3 percent. (Applause.) Keep in mind, when I came into office it was hovering around 10 percent. All told, we’ve now seen 64 straight months of private sector job growth, which is a new record — (applause) — new record — 12.8 million new jobs all told.
That’s a pack of context-free factoids. There is still such a thing as the business cycle, and only economically illiterate hacks—-like those who work on the White House speech writing staff—-would measure anything from the deep V-shaped but momentary bottom that happened to occur during Obama’s second year in office. What counts is not that we’ve had a bounce after a terrible bust, but where we are now on a trend basis.
The answer is absolutely nowhere!
We are now 29 quarters from the pre-crisis peak and total non-farm labor hours utilized by the US economy are no higher than they were in Q4 2007. In other words, if you use a common unit of measure—–labor hours rather than job slots which treat coal-miners and part-time pizza delivery boys alike—–there have been no new units of employment at all. Our teleprompter reading President is actually tooting his own horn about recycled hours and “born again” jobs and doesn’t even know it.
And, no, he can’t take credit for digging us out of the hole created by the Great Recession, either. The long, slow climb back to square one shown in the chart above was due to the natural resilience of our capitalist economy—notwithstanding the tax, regulatory and massive debt hurdles that Washington policies have thrown at it.
The truth of the matter is that America’s employment machine has been failing for this entire century. As shown below, the number of non-farm labor hours utilized during the most recent quarter was only 1% higher than in the spring of 2000—-way back when Bill Clinton still had his hands on things in the Oval Office.
In short, we have gone through two business cycles and have essentially added zero new employment inputs to the US economy. And that marks a sharp and devastating reversal of previous trends. In fact, the BLS’ own data convey an out-and-out crisis that the President should have been lamenting, not a cherry-picked simulacrum of growth based on born-again, apples-and-oranges jobs slots.
Thus, during the comparable 29 quarters after the 1990 business cycle peak (Q2 1990 to Q3 1997) non-farm labor hours had increased by 12% and during the same period of time after the 1981 peak (Q3 1981 to Q4 1988) labor hours expanded by 17 percent. That’s what employment growth used to look like, and absolutely nothing like that has happened on Obama’s watch.
When you get right down to it, however, even labor hours do not fully capture the actual jobs disaster happening in America. That’s because we keep shedding high productivity hours in the full-time jobs sector in favor of low-skill, low-pay gigs in bars, restaurants, Wal-Marts and temp agencies.
So notwithstanding another month of 200,000 plus headline job gains, here’s where we actually are. The number of breadwinner jobs—–full-time positions in energy and mining, construction, manufacturing, the white collar professions, business management and services, information technology, transportation/distribution and finance, insurance and real estate—-is still 1.7 million below the level of December 2007; in fact, it is still lower than it was at the turn of the century.
There is no mystery as to how the White House and Wall Street celebrate year after year of “jobs growth” when the long-term trend of full-time, family-supporting employment levels is heading south. Its called “trickle-down economics”, and not of the good kind, either.
What is happening is that the Keynesian money printers at the Fed are fueling serial financial bubbles. This generates a temporary lift in the discretionary incomes of the top 10% of households, which own 85% of the financial assets, and the next 10-20% which feed off the their winnings. Accordingly, the leisure and hospitality sectors boom, creating a lot of job slots for bar tenders, waiters, bellhops, etc.
I call this the “bread and circuses economy”, but it has two problems. Most of these slots generate only about 26 hours per week and $14 per hour. That’s about $19,000 on an annual basis, and means these slots constitute 40% jobs compared to the breadwinner category at about $50,000 per year. Besides that, a soon as the financial bubble goes bust, these jobs quickly disappear.
This is reason enough for Obama to pipe down on the boasting, but he actually went in the opposite direction claiming a big recovery in manufacturing jobs.
And after a decade of decline, thanks to some of the steps we took…….we’ve added nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing is actually growing faster than the rest of the economy. (Applause.)
But that one is not even a whopper; its a bald-faced lie. There has not been one “new” manufacturing job created during Obama’s term in office; and, in fact, the 12.3 million manufacturing jobs reported for June was still 10% below the level of December 2007, and nearly 30% lower than the 17.3 million manufacturing jobs reported in January 2000.
So the actual facts are not evidence of a trend reversal; they’re an exercise in political hogwash.
Indeed, if you take the entire high-productivity, high-pay goods production sector—-energy, mining, manufacturing and construction—the trend is even worse. As shown below, the 19.6 million goods producing jobs in June was 5 million lower than in January 2000. Is there any wonder that the median real household income has declined by 7% over the last 15 years?
Here’s the real truth beneath the bloviation issuing from stumping politicians and Wall Street stock touts alike. The June BLS report showed that the HES Complex (health, education and social services) generated another 48,000 jobs in June. This figure is nearly dead on the 42,000 monthly average for this sector since the turn of the century.
The minor problem with that trend is these jobs pay on average only $35,000 per year—–a level that does not remotely support a middle class standard of living, especially after payroll and income taxes are extracted from this gross pay figure.
The much bigger skunk in the woodpile, however, is that these jobs are almost entirely “fiscally dependent”. Yet the public sector in America is broke, and the total public debt just keeps on climbing higher.
To wit, the 32.2 million jobs in the HES Complex are funded by $1.5 trillion annually of Medicare, Medicaid and other health and social services entitlements. On top of that there is also about $1 trillion of public sector education funding, $200 billion per year of government guaranteed student loans and $250 billion annually in tax subsidies for employer provided and individual health insurance plans and Obamacare tax credits.
In effect, the public sector borrows and taxes to create low productivity jobs within the nation’s highly inefficient, wasteful and monopolistic health and education cartels—- but in the process squeezes everything else. In fact, there have been virtually no new jobs—even on a headcount basis—–outside of the HES Complex during the entirety of the 21st Century to date!
One of these days the public sector is going to exhaust its capacity to tax and borrow, and to thereby finance job growth even in the HES Complex. Needless to say, Washington and Wall Street will be as clueless then as they are now.
Meanwhile, the White House whoppers will keep on coming.