A big version of the biggest, most important chart in American politics

I’ve gotten a few requests for an embiggened version of the infamous jobs chart prepared by Obama administration economists Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer back in January 2009 (and updated by me). You know, the chart that predicted what the unemployment rate would be if Congress passed the Obama stimulus plan.

Well, here you go. Click it once, let the next page load, and then click it again. Or just click this.


20 thoughts on “A big version of the biggest, most important chart in American politics

  1. You’re the creator of this chart, that I’ve seen lots of times?! It’s been very useful. I wouldn’t want to wash out what you’ve done, but a version of this w/ employment (as opposed to unemployment) splashed on there might be interesting too. That would be a curve that would be trending down.

    • Actually, it’s going up–but it’s 4.8 million seasonally adjusted jobs below the peak on 1/1/08. Here are the relevant numbers (non-farm seasonally adjusted, from FRED):

      01/01/08: 138,023,000 (peak before recession)
      02/01/08: 137,939,000 (Obama takes office)
      01/01/10: 129,279,000 (recession minimum)
      07/01/12: 133,245,000 (today)

      So: going up, but far from recovered.

  2. Kalimera James, What disappoint me is that the Romney team, and the FOP generally, have not come up with a simple response to Obama’s defense is that they inherited a far worse economy then they expected. That the now infamous chart was overly optimistic because of their misjudging the tenacity of the problem.

    Here’s a question, did they misjudge it honestly, or did they want to see a less serious problem because they had an agenda to get to? Did they willfully or subconsciously not want to see the magnitude because that would divert time, attention, political capital and funds away from healthcare reform, cap and trade, banking reform, et al?

    I mean, if he picked some of the greatest economic mind the academic left had to offer, how did they get this so colossally wrong? Sure, an over abundance of faith in Keynesian stimulus might have been active but I wonder.

  3. Hey Jim, not sure what’s up with the Q1 Q3 alternation, would be more helpful to show people who aren’t paying attention the year, along with the quarters, so we can better tie the rate the administration…it’s been a useful graph regardless…and thanks!

  4. A small criticism. The large type on the chart reading “With Recovery Plan” — in the same color as the trendline with the lowest unemployment rate — makes it look at first glance as if the recovery plan RESULTED in the lower unemployment rate. (We all know better of course, and you can read otherwise in the finer print, but the chart would be clearer at a glance if that text read “Rate Promised by Obama Recovery Plan” or some such and if more prominence was given to the Actual Unemployment Rate trendline.

    • The “With Recovery Plan” text is part of the original chart by Romer et al. The strength of the chart above is that it does not alter the original chart in any way, except to add the actual data and some comments.

  5. May I suggest, if you have the time and inclination, that this chart would be even more powerful if you were to extend the green dots back to 2009? It would really highlight how poor the jobs situation is in our country.

  6. I like egoist’s suggestion… I’ll expand on it and suggest TWO more lines: one for % of adult (18+ maybe?) population working, and another charting the rate of people giving up on finding work.

    I bet that would help the chart be more damning than it already is! ;-)

    At any rate, this is a great chart to help make the case for getting Obama out of the White House.

  7. One comment, and one question:

    Comment: the green dot for the 11% looks too low. Based on the size of the grid, it should be at the top of the ‘P’, not below it.

    Question: would it be possible to extend the green dots back to January 2009 as well? I think that would be very informative to see how deceptive the massaging of the numbers has been.

  8. You’re the creator of this chart, that I’ve seen lots of times?!

    Actually no. While it had first been published in April 2009, the chart first went viral when it was published here in May 2009.

  9. Why yield to a politically constructed metric (the “unemployment” rate) which has the the political “virtue” of defining the long-term unemployed and years worth of unemployed graduates *out of existence*.

    Use the U-6 or, better yet, the 25 to 64 employed-to-population ratio.

    The data and graphs for both are available at FRED.

    Both of *those* metrics show the full extent of American job market ruin.

  10. I’m so happy this starts when the democrats actually took control of congress in 2007. I don’t know why this isn’t brought up by the campaign at all!

    • you’re happy about a rise in unemployment rates? I’m rather unhappy that people love to take sides and blame the other for everything. Not to say I’m not guilty of it, just saying how are we supposed to progress as a RESPECTABLE nation when whichever party is in not in power or the minority will do anything they can to make the other look bad…..

  11. I almost wrote a comment about the unemployment rate going down because of people dropping out of the labor force. That’s because I didn’t notice the most important part of this graph — that little green dot.

    That needs emphasizing somehow.

  12. Unreported, of course, is what the actual unemployment rate would have been in July 2012 if Congress had not passed the stimulus plan. Of course, we don’t and can’t know. But since both the predicted outcomes were too low, I suspect the actual unemployment rate would be much higher, all else being equal.

    The danger lies in comparing actual results with predicted results. It’s not really comparing apples to apples, and whatever may be gleaned from it is of very limited usefulness. About the most that can be said is that the administration’s predictions were both wrong, which given the nature and length of this recovery, should come as no surprise to anyone.

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