Peter Coy is ordinarily a pretty good reporter, but he really misses the boat with this chart, with the comment, “this jobs recovery is weak, all right, but right in line with the past two recoveries.”
When you evaluate the strength of a recovery, you also have to consider the depth of the downturn that preceded it. In the 1990-91 recession we lost 1.5 million jobs, in the 2001 recession we lost 1.6 million jobs. In the 2007-2009 recession we lost 7.5 million jobs.
The job loss in the downturn provides the room for job growth in the upturn. That is why the economy was able to generate 10.4 million jobs from June of 1975 to June of 1978 and 9.8 million jobs from December of 1982 to December of 1985. (Remember the labor force was less than 2/3rds the size of the current labor force.) In both cases, severe recessions left enormous room for job growth in the expansion. This is also true with the current downturn.
Several Obama supporters have picked up Coy’s graph and tried to make a political statement with it. They have. They don’t believe that Obama can make a serious economic case to support his re-election.
[Addendum: Apparently, this is not the first time they have tried this trick, as my colleague John Schmitt informs me.]
Economist Dean Baker is co-founder of Center for Economic Policy and Research and writes regularly on CEPR’s Beat the Press blog, where this post first appeared.