- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

Twelve and a half hours before President Bush and John Kerry faced each other in St. Louis last night in their second presidential debate, the Labor Department issued its final monthly employment report to appear before the election. During September, when the unemployment rate remained at 5.4 percent, the department reported that nonfarm employment increased by 96,000 jobs — including 59,000 in the private sector and 37,000 in the public sector. As the dust settles from last night’s debate, it’s worth reviewing the overall employment picture, both domestically and internationally:

• In August 2003, nonfarm payrolls reached their nadir during the Bush administration. At that point, total employment was 2.6 million jobs below the level of January 2001, when Mr. Bush was inaugurated. Notably, more than 900,000 of those jobs were lost during the three months that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.

• Since August 2003, nonfarm employment has increased for 13 consecutive months, cumulatively rising by nearly 1.8 million. That represents an average monthly increase of nearly 140,000. With three months remaining in 2004, however, it is now certain that the administration will not come close to reaching the 2.6 million increase in average monthly nonfarm employment (2003 vs. 2004) that it projected in the 2004 Economic Report of the President. If employment continues to increase by 2004’s year-to-date monthly average of 170,000 during each of the final three months of 2004, this year’s average monthly nonfarm employment level will have increased by about 1.28 million jobs, or less than half the 2.6 million increase forecast by the administration.

• Through September, total nonfarm employment was down by 821,000 jobs compared to January 2001. That includes a loss of 1.63 million private-sector jobs. Those losses have been partially offset by a gain of 813,000 government jobs, more than 75 percent of which were at the local government level. Federal government employment has actually declined by 39,000 so far during the Bush administration, despite the creation of the Homeland Security Department.

• Since January 2001, the manufacturing sector has lost 2.7 million jobs, 2.1 million of which were manned by production workers. Despite shedding more than one out of six production workers since January 2001, manufacturing — thanks to phenomenal productivity increases in this sector — has generated an output level that is above the January 2001 mark. Indeed, manufacturing output is 7.5 percent higher today than it was at manufacturing’s cyclical bottom, which was reached in late 2001.

• At 5.4 percent, the U.S. unemployment rate in September was nearly a full percentage point below its cyclical peak of 6.3 percent, which was reached in June 2003. That rate compares quite favorably to unemployment rates prevailing in other major industrial countries. Yesterday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose membership includes 30 countries “sharing a commitment to democratic government and the market economy,” released a report detailing its members’ standardized unemployment rates for August. The OECD average rate was 6.9 percent, one and a half points above America’s. Germany’s unemployment rate was 9.9 percent and France’s was 9.6 percent, both of which exceeded their 2003 average monthly unemployment rates.

• Compared to previous recoveries, U.S. job growth admittedly has been lackluster. When President Reagan was seeking re-election 20 years ago, for example, nonfarm payrolls increased by more than 6.25 million jobs during the 18 months preceding his electoral landslide. On the other hand, the unemployment rate peaked at 10.8 percent during the 1981-82 recession, and it was still 7.4 percent during October 1984 — 2 percentage points higher than today’s. It also bears mentioning that the job-creation rate in the United States during the 12 months ending in August was substantially higher than job-creation rates prevailing in other OECD nations. Compared to the 1.5 percent rate calculated by OECD for the United States, civilian employment increased by only 0.5 percent in Japan over the 12-month period. Meanwhile, civilian employment has actually declined by 0.2 percent in France and by 0.3 percent in Germany over that period.

• One reason the job-creation rate in the United States exceeds that of other OECD members relates to America’s customary role as the locomotive of the democratic industrial world. Indeed, despite its burgeoning trade deficit, the U.S. economy has still grown substantially faster (4.8 percent) during the past year than those of France (2.8 percent), Germany (2 percent), Italy (1.2 percent), Canada (3 percent) and Japan (4.2 percent). All of these nations have failed to grow as fast as the United States and have failed to proportionately generate as many jobs despite enjoying large and growing trade surpluses with America.

In terms of recent developments, and relative to other industrial nations, America’s jobs experience has been quite favorable.

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