Friday, October 2, 2015


The Obama administration likes to boast that it is responsible for 59 straight months of employment expansion, of employment growth, the longest positive economic growth in American history.  I cannot comment on the streak as I don’t have that level of data, or for that matter that level of interest, to affirm or deny that factoid.  On the other hand, the level of employment growth leaves a lot to be desired.   “Why,” you may ask, “this is an impressive accomplishment, isn’t it?”  I guess it is.  But not as impressive as you may think.  Here is why.
The population of the United States grew from 281,421,906 to 308,745,538 (Census Bureau data) in the ten years from 2000 to 2010 (a growth rate a bit slower than the previous ten years).  We will assume that that rate of population growth has remained roughly constant ever since.  That rate of growth is 9.7% over ten years which is 0.93% for each year and 0.0927% for each month.  That rate of population growth will generate a monthly population increase of 260,878 at the beginning to 286,206 at the end of the period.  How many months (of those 59) saw employment growth that exceeded population growth for the same period?  Nine.  So, out of the last 59 months, 9 (15%) have seen an increase in employment that exceeded the increase in population.  For 50 of those 59 months (85%), the increase in population was stronger than the increase in the employment figure.
So, while we are adding to the work force, we are not keeping up with our natural increase in population.  Even though the news sounds good, it is only good compared with … worse.    You will have to play with the Years
This is great news for the Republicans, isn’t it?  Sure, as long as they don’t subject their own record to the same scrutiny.  The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) says that we have been losing ground steadily since about 2000 (Dot Com bubble burst).  And that we peaked (labor force as % of the population) in 1990 (Dot com bubble begins) and again in 2000.  Straight downhill ever since.  And 9/11 seems not to have anything to do with it.

What made me think of this subject?  I just read Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground between Humans and Robots.  Chapter Three is called: A Tough Year for the Human Race.  You want a real political issue to chew on?  This is it!