The Bush jobs chasm

All the March payroll numbers tell us is that the White House knows the date of the election.

Topics: U.S. Economy

The fit of ejaculatio praecox to which the commentariat abandoned itself when payroll job growth hit 308,000 last week was perhaps understandable, in view of the terrible frustrations it had suffered for so many, many months before. So many bright hopes and expectations. So many disappointments.

But what of the future? Do we now accept the conclusion, to which our national teenager President Bush immediately jumped, that “the economy is strong and getting stronger”?

Or can we perhaps take a minute to put matters into perspective?

The fact is, March 2004 was only one good month. How many more would we need just like it to get back to where we were four years ago?

Here’s a quick and dirty calculation.

Assume population growth at its average rate since 1976. Set a target baseline payroll — an employment-to-population ratio of 62 percent, the prosperous level that was exceeded almost continuously from June 1999 to August 2000. If we average 308,000 new payroll jobs every month from now on, how long will it take to break that June 1999 threshold once again?

Answer: Four more years. It wouldn’t happen until March 2008.

And the first time payroll growth falls below 308,000 per month, then either some other month will have to make up the shortfall, or else the date will slip.

Not that 308,000 is such a large number. Want to know how many times monthly payroll employment gains hit the 300,000 mark under Clinton and Gore? Twenty-four. That’s one month in every four. Numbers like that didn’t make the front pages under Clinton.

But this is the first time it’s happened under Bush. In fact, it’s the first time payroll gains under Bush passed the 200,000 mark. The previous high under Bush? 159,000. So 308,000 is almost twice his personal best.

If you think this expansion is going to continue at this pace for four more years, in the face of what will soon enough be rising interest rates, huge deficits and the pressure to cut them, a deflating housing bubble and, most of all, the proven indifference of Team Bush to jobs policy, then frankly you haven’t been paying attention. Four more months — that I’d believe. But they haven’t got a clue what to do after that.

All the March payroll numbers tell us, in a nutshell, is that the White House knows the date of the election.

James K. Galbraith organized a conference on the “Crisis in the Eurozone” at the University of Texas at Austin on November 3-4. Papers and presentations can be found at, along with a video archive of the full meeting.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>