When President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney go head-to-head for the first time tonight, Americans will be looking to answer two questions: Did Obama, given the free-falling economy he faced when he entered office, do a good enough job of fixing it? And who will be better for the economy and job creation over the next four years?
Accusations will be thrown, words will be twisted, and figures will fly. So when it comes to the status of the American job market, how it fared under Obama, and the problems it will confront ahead, we thought it would be helpful to lay out the facts, pure and unpolitical:
- The country lost nearly 8.8 million jobs in the recession, the AP reported, and has since regained 4.1 million -- a little under half.
- As of August (the last month for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data), the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent -- 3.4 percent higher than it was before the recession.
- There are 12.5 million unemployed Americans, 8 million Americans working part-time but who want to work more, and 2.6 million Americans who want a job, but haven't looked for one in the last four weeks (so don't count as unemployed).
- The average unemployed American has been without a job for almost 10 months.
- The jobless rate is starkly divided by education; 12 percent of Americans without a high school diploma are unemployed, while the unemployment rate is just 4.1 percent for Americans with a bachelor's degree or higher.
- As a result of the shrinking economy, 65 percent of businesses surveyed by the nonpartisan McKinsey Global Institute made changes to achieve the same productivity with fewer employees. More than half of these companies did this by piling more on their current workers.
- The country was having serious problems with job creation even before Obama took office. According to the McKinsey Global Institute report, in the years between 2000 and 2007, the U.S. had weaker employment growth than any comparable period since the Great Depression, due in part to competition from low-wage workers overseas and new technologies that allowed for greater production with fewer workers.
- The White House predicted the February 2009 stimulus bill would kick unemployment below eight percent. That didn't happen. But that doesn't mean the $800 billion cash injection didn't create any jobs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated at the end of last year that the stimulus added up to 0.9 million jobs in 2009, 3.3 million jobs in 2010, 2.6 million jobs in 2011, and would add between 0.2 and 1.1 million jobs this year.
- In a University of Chicago Booth School of Business survey, 80 percent of economic experts said the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus.
- The nonpartisan Center for Automotive Research estimated in 2010 that the roughly $80 billion auto bailout likely saved 1.14 million jobs and saved the government $28.6 billion in lost tax revenue. But at the end of the day, the bailout will also likely cost the taxpayer $25.1 billion, according to the latest U.S. Treasury report.
- There are 500,000 more unemployed Americans now compared to when Obama took office, but 2.9 million fewer unemployed Americans than in October 2009, the trough of the recession.
- There are 2.3 million more longterm unemployed Americans (27 weeks or more) compared to when Obama took office, but 1.7 million fewer longterm unemployed Americans than at its peak in April 2010.
- There are 25,000 fewer Americans working part-time who want to work more now than when Obama took office, and 1.4 million fewer than in September 2010, when this number peaked.
- At last count, there were 430,000 more Americans who want a job, but have stopped looking for one, compared to when Obama took office. But there are 250,000 fewer labor force drop-outs now compared to January 2012, when this number was at its highest.
- According to the McKinsey Global Institute report, the country will need to create a total of 21 million new jobs in this decade to employ the country.
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