As the Rational Republican points out, Democrats and Republicans can each refer to charts which bolster their arguments for or against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


One chart that I haven’t seen used much is the employment/population ratio.

Employment Population Ratio (falls at end of Bush years and after Obama takes over but then flattens out).

What this shows is in the end of 2009, our jobs losses stopped. Not a very good chart to use against Obama but also not the most impressive chart to support him, because it flattens out in the end rather than rises up.

Much better for Obama is the chart showing the amount of jobs lost and created. Clearly we were loosing jobs at a rate unseen for over 60 years, but after stimulus we started adding millions of jobs back into the economy. But our population also grows, so we have to add millions of jobs each year just to keep up. It’s a lot better for the Obama administration to say, “We’ve added millions of jobs” than, “We’ve added millions of jobs and are keeping up.”

Bar chart showing negative job growth prior to ARRA then positive.

Republicans like to show the labor force participation rate, because it looks so bad. Republicans point out that unemployment figures only show people looking for work, so they actually improve when people give up. Labor force participation drops when people stop looking for work, so they claim it’s a better indication of the nation’s employment situation. But the labor force participation rate only tells a small part of the story. If during hard times two people loose their jobs, than one finds a new job while the other gives up, the labor force participation rate will go down even as the employment situation improves.

Chart showing decline of labor forced participatin rate.

It may be misleading for the Obama administration to show jobs created without putting them into the context of an ever growing population, but it’s more misleading for Republicans to present a chart that only shows a piece of the puzzle and use that chart to suggest that we’re actually loosing jobs.

If you want to understand our employment situation, you’re going to have to do more than look at a chart.

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