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Jobs, the Economy, Household Income and Labor Day

In an op-ed at CNN, Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute begins by writing:

"On Labor Day, we celebrate the American worker. And more than four years since the Great Recession ended in June 2009, the unemployment rate is 7.4%, a big improvement from the high of 10% in the fall of 2009. Unfortunately, the rate is hugely misleading: Most of that improvement was for all the wrong reasons.

"Remember, jobless workers are not counted as being part of the labor force unless they are actively looking for work, and the decline in the unemployment rate since its peak has mostly been the result of workers dropping out of -- or not entering -- the labor force.

"According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, if the labor market were healthy, the labor force would number about 159.2 million. But the actual labor force numbers just 155.8 million. That means about 3.4 million "missing workers" are out there -- jobless people who would be in the labor force if job opportunities were strong."

So things couldn't be worse, or could they? At Pajamas Media, Tom Blumer, who owns a training and development company, looked at how household income fared for whites, blacks and Hispanics. According to Blumer:

"The frightening data recently published by Sentier Research, a group of former Census Bureau employees who have been tracking monthly household income since the turn of the century, make it obvious that it is economically devastated African-Americans who should be absolutely furious with Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in Washington."

< . . . >

"Sentier’s report shows that since the recession officially ended in June 2009, African-American household income, defined as “before-tax money income,” has plunged by three times as much as everyone else’s (dollar amounts are current)."

Blumer justifies that statement with the following chart:

Blumer also writes, "Combining Sentier’s work with Census Bureau data through 2011, the most recent available, shows that African-Americans’ real household income has dropped by over 16 percent since 2007, and by over 20 percent since the statistic’s high-water mark in 2000 (for the table, I conservatively used a drop of 10 percent during the past four years instead of 10.9 percent for blacks, did not change the declines in other groups at all, and assumed that Sentier’s June readings will be the same as the overall results for all of 2013)," and then includes the following chart:

Both Shierholz and Blumer include economic prescriptions in their analyses. It won't surprise frequent readers of Growls that we easily lean towards those of Tom Blumer. However, it's welcome news to know that progressives no longer argue that the economy is better than it really is.

UPDATE (9/4/13): In an op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore, a member of the Journal's editorial board, also focuses on the analysis of Census data by Sentier Research, and says, "Obama's economy hits his voters hardest." According to Moore, "The finding that grabbed headlines was that real median household income "has fallen by 4.4 percent since the 'economic recovery' began in June 2009." In dollar terms, median household income fell to $52,098 from $54,478, a loss of $2,380." Moore then then continues with these two salient paragraphs:

"What was largely overlooked, however, is that those who were most likely to vote for Barack Obama in 2012 were members of demographic groups most likely to have suffered the steepest income declines. Mr. Obama was re-elected with 51% of the vote. Five demographic groups were crucial to his victory: young voters, single women, those with only a high-school diploma or less, blacks and Hispanics. He cleaned up with 60% of the youth vote, 67% of single women, 93% of blacks, 71% of Hispanics, and 64% of those without a high-school diploma, according to exit polls.

"According to the Sentier research, households headed by single women, with and without children present, saw their incomes fall by roughly 7%. Those under age 25 experienced an income decline of 9.6%. Black heads of households saw their income tumble by 10.9%, while Hispanic heads-of-households' income fell 4.5%, slightly more than the national average. The incomes of workers with a high-school diploma or less fell by about 8% (-6.9% for those with less than a high-school diploma and -9.3% for those with only a high-school diploma)"

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