Free Markets, Free People
In a townhall meeting, President Obama was confronted with a situation by a former federal worker. I won’t say she was confronting him per se, but she was laying out a less than happy result, for her and her family, of the economic downturn and asking, rhetorically what the President would advise her to do:
Karin Gallo, who jokingly described her job at the National Zoo as "non-essential employee number seven," said she had taken a job in government "thinking it was a secure job" – but that now, she feared for her family’s future.
"I am seven months pregnant in a high-risk pregnancy, my first pregnancy," Gallo told Mr. Obama. "My husband and I are in the middle of building a house. We’re not sure if we’re gonna be completely approved. I’m not exactly in a position to waltz right in and do great on interviews, based on my timing with the birth."
"And so, I’m stressed, I’m worried," she continued. "I’m scared about what my future holds. I definitely need a job. And, I just wonder what would you do, if you were me?"
Obama essentially ignored the personal “what should I do” part of the question to spin an answer that Jim Geraghty at NRO calls “epically wrong”.
The reason for the spin is obvious – it’s a way to throw a scare into the voting population by pretending two things that haven’t happened are happening. And here is the “epically wrong” quote:
"The reason the unemployment rate is still as high as it is, in part, is because there have been huge layoffs of government workers at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level," he said. "Teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers– they have really taken it in the chin over the last several months. And so, what we’re trying to do is to see if we can stabilize the budget."
"I do want to make a larger point to people, though, that folks like Karin provide vital services," Mr. Obama continued. "And so, when we have discussions about how to cut our debt and our deficit in an intelligent way, we have to make sure that we understand this is not just a matter of numbers – these are people."
Well of course they’re people. So are the 6+ million or so not working in the private sector right now. But let’s get to the numbers shall we? Geraghty provides them:
First, let’s look at the numbers for private-sector employment. All figures come from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Recent peak of private-sector employment, June 2007: 116,603,000.
Total private-sector employment in the month Obama became president, January 2009: 109,084,000.
Recent low of private-sector employment, January 2010: 104,933,000.
Total private-sector employment, April 2011: 108,494,000 (Seasonally adjusted: 108,862,000).
So note, we are about 8 million away from the most recent peak in private-sector employment.
Now, let’s look at total government employment (at all levels) for those four months:
June 2007: 22,176,000.
January 2009: 22,471,000.
January 2010: 22,376,000.
April 2011: 22,594,000 (preliminary).
As you can see, in terms of total number of Americans employed in government, there has been no real discernible recession. In fact, the number has increased slightly.
Now let’s look at the number of people employed in state government during these months:
June 2007: 4,918,000.
January 2009: 5,116,000.
January 2010: 5,053,000.
April 2011: 5,253,000 (preliminary).
Again, not only pretty stable, but slowly climbing.
Now let’s look at employment in local government:
June 2007: 14,514,000.
January 2009: 14,583,000.
January 2010: 14,478,000.
April 2011: 14,492,000 (preliminary).
Geraghty updates his numbers when a commenter points out he used seasonally adjusted numbers in one place but not another. It still doesn’t really change the picture or the point that Obama’s just wrong about this:
In the comments, Reno Dave notes that in one case I used seasonally-adjusted numbers instead of non-seasonally adjusted numbers. I have added the non-seasonally-adjusted number for consistency. He notes that using the seasonally adjusted numbers, the total government workforce has varied slightly differently in the selected months:
June 2007: 22,218,000.
January 2009: 22,582,000.
January 2010: 22,488,000.
April 2011: 22,166,000 (preliminary).
You end up with 300,000 or so fewer government workers in the past 16 months. (Notice that the Census hiring effects these numbers a bit; the number of Census employees went from 24,000 in January 2010 to 564,000 in May 2010 all the way down to 1,000 in October 2010. More details here.)
The fact is there has been no significant drop in government employment at all in the past 5 years – none. And of course, who did Obama cite as being the first out the door of these mythical “huge” layoffs? Why "teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers", of course.
Where did Karin Gallo work?
"My main message to you is that the work you’ve done at the National Zoo’s important," he said. "Every child that you see who comes by and is amazed by those animals, you know, they’re benefiting from your work."
Really? So does that make her a “teacher”? This is the “vital work” Obama was trying to tout earlier?
No offense to Ms. Gallo, and my sympathies to her and her family about her loss of employment – honestly. (Remember that almost $900 billion “stimulus” the prez said would keep unemployment under 8%, Ms. Gallo?) But you know, I went through the same thing last October. I survived and am beginning to thrive. I didn’t even apply to unemployment, although I was eligible.
What Mr. Obama should have said was, “this is a great land and I’m sure you have many talents. Why not look around, assess your strengths and weaknesses and then consider starting a business of your own?”
Instead he tries to sell big government as a huge necessity in which government employed zoo workers do “vital work”.
Most likely it is much more than what is officially acknowledged.
That’s because it’s all about how you count them. Right now, for instance, the official unemployment number is 10%. If you add the underemployed, though – people working part time who want full time jobs – that number jumps to 17.3%
But is the 10% number right? Most likely not. Don Surber points to one reason:
Crudele explained: “When the Labor Department puts out the January employment figures on Feb. 4, they will include an assumption that a lot of companies went out of business.
“This is something called the birth/death model that is used by the department. Last year it caused 356,000 jobs to be subtracted from the January job count… Nobody in the media will pick up on this, but the Labor Department will also do something called a benchmark revision on Feb. 4 that will subtract around 840,000 jobs that the government thought existed, but really don’t.”
356,000 jobs here, 840,000 jobs there and pretty soon you have 1,196,000 more unemployed than advertised.
That would change that 10.0% to 10.8%.
“Oops” indeed. I have an inherent distrust of estimates based on models. Maybe it’s the AGW nonsense that has turned me so against them. But still, how many “benchmark revisions” have been done in this recession and how many jobs have been shuffled off to the “do not exist anymore” bin without being added to the unemployment rate? In reality, we could easily be in the 13 or 14% area.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle had a short blurb today that gives you insight into the real size of the unemployment problem:
There are 6.4 job seekers for every job opening in the U.S., according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the highest rate since BLS began tracking such data in December 2000.
The ratio in December 2007? 1.7 to 1.