Monday, June 04, 2012

What's Obama's peer group job creation ranking? Way better than 47th of 50

Romney's job creation record as governor of Massachusetts bears a striking -- if superficial -- resemblance to Obama's as President: a first year of job losses followed by three years of weak growth (actually, for Romney, a rather strong final year following two near-flat years).

Romney has been attacking Obama's job creation record since...forever.  You know the drill: Obama made the recession worse, Obama isn't working, nearly a million jobs lost on his watch.  This week, as the Obama team turns the tables and broadcasts that Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in job growth during Romney's tenure, the Romney camp finds an excuse: you can't blame him for first-year job losses. Of course, if you give Obama that pass, the country has gained nearly 4 million jobs on his watch.  Or, as Michael Tomasky calculated: excluding each executive's first year, and through April of their fourth year, Obama has presided over 2.35% job growth, Romney over 1.9%.

Hence, two Obama spox pounced this morning on Twitter:
Jim Messina: Romney economics: Under Romney, MA fell to 47th out of 50 on job creation. Under POTUS, we see 27 months of private-sector job growth.

Stephanie Cutter: Romney campaign undercut its entire strategy by arguing that he inherited bad economy so 1st yr shouldn't be counted.
What's needed to concentrate fire, it seems to me, is an apples-to-apples comparison to Romney's 47/50 ranking, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. In reality, any local economy in any given period is sui generis; Rick Perry is not a "better" job creator than Mitt Romney. But with Romney shamelessly manipulating the stats to attack Obama, it's fair to come up with a "peer group" for the US during Obama's term.  And what could be fairer than the OECD, which includes Korea, unemployment rate 3.7% at present, and Japan, clocking in at  4.5%?  So let's have a look.

For the OECD as a whole, according to an April AFP article, the unemployment rate was 8.2% in February 2012 (based on 24 of 36 countries), 8.2% in 2011, and 8.6% in 2010 (number of countries included unspecified).  For the U.S., the rate was 8.3% in January 2012, 9.0% in January 2011, and 9.7% in January 2010.  Remember, by current Romney rules, you discount the executive's first year (as really, you should).  So, from early 2010 to early 2012, a period in which the OECD unemployment rate dropped four tenths of a percent, the US rate dropped about 1.4 percent. 

Arguably, a fairer -- and sharper -- comparison is to be made between the U.S. and the national economies of Europe, which turned more quickly and more radically to austerity in the face of the large budget deficits generated by the financial crisis and so provide a foil for Obama's moderate early stimulus and more recent restrained austerity. In the 17-country Eurozone,  unemployment zigzagged from 10.1% in October 2010 to  8.9% in April 2011 and up to 11.0% in April 2012. In the broader EU 27, including the austere U.K., the rate went from 9.5% in April 2011 to 10.3% in April 2012 (chart for April 2011--April 2012 here).

I'd like to see an economist do a more rigorous comparison.  Given the austerity mania in Europe, I'm confident that Obama's tepid and GOP-braked stimulative measures stack up well in any fairly constituted peer group.

Update 6/5: Fehrnstrom claims that in Romney's final year, Massachusetts had moved up to 30th among the states in job growth. So again: in what peer group do we place Obama?  

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