President Obama, at a town hall meeting in Indiana this week, repeated an oft-used line regarding the success of his presidency.
“By almost every economic measure,” he said, “America is better off than when I came here at the beginning of my presidency. We cut unemployment in half, years before a lot of economists thought we would.”
Obama tends to get away with these lies because there’s just enough truth there to satisfy a sympathetic media. Indeed, unemployment numbers are down. In May, the American unemployment rate dropped to 4.7%, which is certainly preferable to the 10% rate Obama faced in October of 2009.
On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said about the “almost” in Obama’s claim. Because there is one economic measure that this administration has been steadfastly ignoring for the last eight years: the labor force participation rate. By this measure, you’re still considered part of the labor force even if you’re unemployed. As long as you’re seeking a job, you get counted. On the flipside, the Obama administration simply discounts anyone not looking for a job when they produce their unemployment numbers. This can and does present a highly skewed picture of the American job market.
According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 94,708,000 Americans are completely absent from the labor force. They aren’t working and they aren’t looking for work. Some have retired, sure, but many others have simply given up hope. This gives us a labor force participation rate of 62.6%, which is only slightly above numbers not seen since 1977.
That’s not all.
When workers find part-time jobs, they are no longer counted as unemployed. But if that part-time job isn’t paying the bills, it’s scarcely better. According to the BLS report, 6.4 million Americans are working part-time, even though they would prefer to work full-time. And that number is only going up. Obama may have presided over a falling unemployment rate, but he’s ignoring the growing problem of underemployment, which can be just as disastrous.
No president has autonomous control over the economy, of course, but if President Obama wants to take credit for our recovery, he must take the blame for his failings.