Joe Biden will grouse about any sort of positive news. That’s his job. He doesn’t get the job he’s angling for if things don’t look dire.
At least when it comes to a blockbuster jobs report in the middle of an economic crisis, however, perhaps Biden ought to just have let this one go.
Yet again, the numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday beat expectations and did so in dramatic fashion.
Dow Jones economists were expecting a 9.8 percent unemployment rate for the month of August. The BLS reported an 8.4 percent rate, down from 10.2 percent in July.
According to CNBC, there were 1.37 million new jobs in non-farm sectors. Another measure, which takes into account discouraged workers who are out of the labor market and those holding down part-time jobs not by choice, fell to 14.2 percent in August from 16.5 percent in July.
“It’s another great day for American jobs and American workers,” Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC, noting that “there were some estimates that we weren’t going to see the unemployment rate go into single digits before the end of this year.
“But because of the foundation that President Trump poured in our first three years of less taxes, less regulation, more American energy, more free and fair trade, and because of the relief efforts that we were able to secure from the Congress of the United States — direct support for families, paycheck protection — that today we see 1.4 million jobs added, the unemployment rate drops to 8.4 percent,” he added.
“It’s a great day in America and real evidence that the American comeback is underway.”
Biden, of course, had a different take.
“Economists are starting to call this recession a ‘K-shaped’ recession, which is a fancy phrase for what’s wrong with everything about Trump’s presidency,” Biden said, according to a New York Post report.
“The K means those at the top are seeing things go up. And those in the middle or below are seeing things go down and get worse.”
“Trump has mismanaged the COVID crisis. And that’s why it’s a K-shaped pandemic,” he continued. “The president has botched the COVID response, botched it badly.”
“He doesn’t understand. He just doesn’t care. He thinks that the stock market is up and everything’s fine. If his wealthy friends and donors are doing well, then everything is doing well.”
— CNBC (@CNBC) September 4, 2020
This doesn’t really hold water — we’ll get to that in a second — but let’s talk about how the economy performed under the last crisis, back when Joe Biden was vice president.
Yes, he wasn’t in direct control, but Biden’s running in part on his role in the Obama administration, which managed the aftermath of the housing bubble and the attendant financial crisis. At least going by the metric of the unemployment rate, he doesn’t have anything to brag about.
After the unemployment rate rose steadily in the first months of the Obama/Biden administration and reached its peak in October 2009, the administration didn’t achieve an 8.4 percent rate or lower until more than two years later. The unemployment rate was at 10 percent in October 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and didn’t fall to 8.4 percent or lower until January 2012. (In that month, the number was 8.3 percent, down from 8.5 percent in December 2011.)
In April of this year, the unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent. It’s gone down sharply since then, culminating in the August jobs report figure of 8.4 percent.
As for people not in the labor force who wanted a job, there were 7 million of those in August 2012 during the Obama administration.
After peaking at almost 10 million in April of this year, that figure has now come down to 6,985,000.
Now, you can point to the large number of seasonal jobs in Friday’s report — particularly for the Census Bureau, which hired 328,000 new workers in August. This was anticipated by economists, however, and baked into models — models which the economy has consistently outperformed.
In early June of this year, CNN published a piece that — as the kids like to say on Twitter — didn’t age well.
“Economists polled by Refinitiv expect the US economy to shed another 8 million jobs in May, bringing the tally of jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic to 28.5 million — more than three times the number of jobs lost during the 2008 financial crisis,” CNN reported.
“That would push the unemployment rate to nearly 20%, a record high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is set to release its jobs report at 8:30 am ET Friday, began tracking monthly data in 1948.”
That data was published the next day. It showed that unemployment in May actually fell to 13.3 percent.
“Oxford Economics expects the unemployment rate will remain at 10% by the end of the year,” the CNN piece added.
It’s now below 10 percent with four months to go until the end of the year.
This isn’t just the rich benefiting, either.
Silicon Valley project managers and Wall Street quants weren’t the ones driving the recovery. There were huge gains in employees returning from furlough; CNBC reported a total of “24.2 million people who said they not working because their employer either closed or lost business due to the pandemic, down from 31.3 million in July.”
And to the extent there was a K-shaped recovery, it was partially because shutdown measures inordinately affect the services economy. Even then, the retail industry was one of the biggest winners in Friday’s report, adding 249,000 jobs in August.
“Employment growth is still set to lag the recovery in broader economic activity over the coming months given its greater exposure to the services sectors worst affected by the pandemic,” wrote Andrew Hunter, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
“Nevertheless, the August data illustrate that, despite the earlier surge in virus cases and more recent fading of fiscal support, the recovery continues to plow on.”
Biden’s entire narrative is that President Trump has mismanaged our COVID-19 strategy and the economic recovery.
While the coronavirus and the 2008 economic crash are different crises, they aren’t apples and oranges.
If Joe Biden wants to talk mismanagement, let him explain the protracted recovery he helped oversee during his time with the Obama administration.
I’m sure he’ll have the opportunity to do that when the presidential debates roll around, after all.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.