Job chart in Romney’s economic plan seems wrong still funky

UPDATE, June 15, 11:37 a.m.: Ah, mystery of the funky-seeming Mitt Romney jobs numbers revealed (see below for my puzzlement)—it’s a measure of  full-time jobs reported in the household survey. I guess half of this is my fault—they do reference the “full-time” aspect when talking about data from the 1970s—but the rest of the chart and paragraph just talk about “job growth.”

But I will note that this is the first time I’ve ever seen full-time jobs from the household survey used to measure job market performance over business cycles. And I’m not convinced it’s a useful innovation; in fact, I think it’s pretty obvious cherry-picking.

Say five people get brand-new jobs that provide 30 hours of work per week while five more see their hours cut from 40 to 34 hours. I’d say this is 120 hours of net new additional work being demanded in the economy; but using the full-time jobs from the household survey would simply say that it’s five “jobs” lost. This just doesn’t seem useful to me.

Also, since the Romney chart ends in June 2011, it might be useful to know what happened to their preferred number in the 11 months since then: 2.25 million jobs added. The industry-standard of economists measuring recessions and recoveries—the payroll survey—has 1.7 million jobs added over those same 11 months, so I do wonder which the campaign would cite if asked.

Lastly, I’d note that there is an obvious sector, full of full-time jobs, that has seen a particularly hard time since the June 2009 beginning of recovery: the public sector. Since June 2009, 600,000 state and local jobs have been lost, and in 2009, about three-fourths of these jobs were full-time.


I was asked to comment on the speech Mitt Romney made in front of the Business Roundtable, so I decided to do some light background reading: Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.

I noticed something odd in the jobs section of the plan—this chart (ripped directly from the Romney PDF):

I know jobs numbers and recoveries, and these looked wrong to me. For one, the absolute peak-to-trough employment loss following 2007’s Great Recession was 8.8 million jobs (between Jan. 2008 and Feb. 2010)  not the 8.9 million that the chart claims.

And given that this is the peak job loss, this means, by definition, that anything measured after this trough couldn’t be negative, as the chart implies. I also know that the U.S. economy didn’t begin adding jobs after the 2001 recession until the second half of 2003, so the 2001 numbers looked off, too.

So I decided to do the chart correctly—actually show job losses during the official recessions (i.e., not just employment peak to trough) and the 24 months following and sure enough:

Romney’s numbers are all slightly off, which is odd.

Odder is that the respective performance of the recoveries following the 2001 and 2007-2009 recession are reversed. Look closely at the the last two sets of bars in the respective figures.

The Romney chart  has jobs growing in the first 24 months of recovery following the 2001 recession, but shrinking in the first 24 months following the 2007-2009 recession. That’s the opposite pattern of what actually occurred—jobs shrank for the first two years after the 2001 recession and grew modestly in the first two years after the 2007-2009 recession.

I’ll note that we also tried to match the Romney numbers with quarterly data, with household-survey employment counts, with household-adjusted-for-payroll concepts survey data … nothing worked.

A little curious as to what’s going on here.

And since there’s been lots of discussion about the relative health of the private and public sectors, here’s the correct graph for private-sector jobs only.


  • muddauber

    Check the chart. Obama was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009.

  • D Swet

    Does that make a Presidential contender a liar, or it a ‘misspoken kind of thing’?

  • benleet

    Romney’s documents also show skewed data regarding national deficit and debt growth, attributing too much to Obama, too little to Bush. In July 2000, economy had more private sector jobs than April 2012. Both years 111 million. Why? The Great Bush Recession. 25 million working age people joined the population 2000-2012, still a net loss in private sector jobs. Well, Obama has not been very active in clarifying the impressions created by WSJ or Romney. 

  • clarenceswinney

    ROLLED IN AMERICA

    OD BLESS AMERICA
    May it survive Corpocracy and go back to Democracy
    My Solutions—-
    A. People repeal Corp is a man

    B. Fed Fund Election-Stop two yr campaigns waste of money/ time
    6 months–3 for Primary Campaign–3 For General Campaign
    free equal tv time-provided by “our” tv airwaves
    One Debate a week. That is 12 And is adequate to evaluate candidates,
    This stops need to raise campaign funds. Congress and White House can stay on the job instead of constant traveling to raise funds. Restrict outside campaign funds.

    C. Since there is no need for campaign funds BAN members of the government from receiving anything with a financial value current or future promises. Stop the bribing by Lobbyists.

    D. Progressive Flat Tax By Group-we have a $14,000 income a 3800B budget yet rank #2 in oecd nations as lowest taxed. We refuse to tax wealth enough to pay our way. They have the money.
    Top 50% get 87% (agi) of Income and pay 13.5% Tax Rate.
    Bottom 50% or 70,000,000 workers get 13% not enough to pay much in taxes.
    They pay a greater percent of that Income in payroll- state-local taxes than many top incomes.
    It has been a disgrace that top ceos can get enormous increases in pay and many of 70,000,000 cannot get an increase in the minimum wage to better their standard of living.
    In A Christian nation I often wonder what Jesus Christ would say to us?

    E. Tax Book–burn that sucker. start anew. Any request for an exemption be televised so the public can watch attempts at bribery. It is so sad that in 2011 corporations with record profits paid 12.1% Tax Rate for second lowest in oecd nations. It is sad when we borrow $1300B with $14,000B income.
    because we tax only $2300B or 16.4% Tax Rate yet top incomes had huge pay increases.
    Job Creators=lowest since Hoover =while rich got ultra rich and masses borrowed from those rich to keep a decent standard of living. While top 10% gained to 73% of Net Wealth–to 83% of Financial Wealth and got 50% of individual income. While 70,000,000 got 13% of income.

    F. Tight audits and cut spending on Defense and Medicare the too biggies on unnecessary spending.
    Example—In San Francisco, colon exam is $7500 and $1500 in southern calif. hospitals.
    This per Head of public employee health care for calif. Example:elevated blood pressure. Two tests. Nitro patch on chest in bed nine hours. $6,000. Yes! $6,000.

  • Astrial

    Nothing said or posted by Romney and his Cronies should be considered  truthful.  Lying is first nature to them and shame on us for even contemplating their ability to even tell the truth.

  • Mike Vogt

    Joe, I have a paper (which I can send to you if you want) which shows lay-offs during various recessions.  There were 48 million lay-offs during the 2007-09 recession and 40 million lay-offs during the 1981-82 recession.  Layoffs are measured by initial claimants for unemployment insurance.  Hence, the two recessions were not far apart in terms of job losses.  (The two recessions also had peak unemployment rates of about 10%.)  Yet the data that you and Romney find show employment losses of about 3.0 million in 1981-82 and about 8 million during 2007-09.  How can they be that far apart?  Except for the year of the census the estimates of total employment are rough estimates.  I suspect that the labor department overestimated employment declines during the 2007-09 recession.

    Mike Vogt
    Professor of Economics
    Eastern Michigan University