From March 2014 through February 2015, the American job market improved in ways few thought possible. Over that 12 month stretch, the overall U.S. economy added over 3.2 million jobs and the nation’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.6% to 5.5%. It was a hot streak unlike anything Americans have seen since the jobs boom of the Clinton era.
Fox News has avoided the subject for a while, though that changed after the job totals from March 2015 fell short of projections. Here’s George Will reflecting on jobs data yesterday:
“Let your mind go back to November last year. There was job creation of 321,000 jobs and the administration said this is a miraculous achievement and a harbinger of things to come. It wasn’t a harbinger and it wasn’t miraculous. During the Reagan recovery there were 23 months of job creation over 300,000. Reagan had a month of job creation of 1 million and this was at a time when there were 75 million fewer Americans.”
The conservative Washington Post columnist should probably avoid subjects he doesn’t understand. This, alas, is one of them.
Let’s put aside, at least for now, the fact that Reagan’s record on job creation was, on a per-year basis, less impressive than both Bill Clinton’s record and Jimmy Carter’s record. Let’s also put aside the success President Obama has had rescuing the economy with an agenda that George Will incorrectly predicted wouldn’t work.
Let’s instead focus on Will’s claim that Reagan “had a month of job creation of 1 million.”
If you check with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and take a look at the monthly job totals from 1983, you’ll see something interesting: the U.S. economy, the data shows, lost over 300,000 jobs in August 1983, only to then add over 1 million jobs literally the next month, in September 1983. If something about this sounds fishy to you, trust your instincts.
For George Will, the figures are proof of Reagan’s economic genius. For those of us with access to Google, it’s proof that Will has no idea what he’s talking about. Earlier this year, Business Insider published this report explaining that “no reputable journalist would be caught dead espousing nonsense” like what Will told Fox News viewers yesterday.
So, sadly for the Reagan zealots, President Reagan, his economy, his tax cuts, his supply-side economics, etc., etc., never produced one million jobs in one month, or anything close to it. It was a simple matter of striking communications workers dinging the payroll numbers one month and, upon their return, goosing them the next. Nothing more, nothing less. Could not be more straightforward.
Yep, in August 1983, hundreds of thousands of AT&T workers left their jobs in a major labor dispute, in September 1983, they returned. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data is sensitive to these kinds of unexpected shifts, which are not evident simply by looking at the raw data.
Over the course of eight years, the nation created about 2 million jobs per year Reagan, or roughly 167,000 jobs per month over the course of the Republican icon’s two terms.
That’s not bad, but again, it’s not as impressive as job creation under Clinton or Carter. To borrow a phrase, job creation under Reagan “wasn’t a harbinger and it wasn’t miraculous.”
Stepping back, Republicans really do need to get over the mistaken belief that the economy had reached some kind of supernatural nirvana during Ronaldus Magnus’ era. About a year ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) insisted, “When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.”
That remains demonstrably ridiculous.