February 19th, 2010
03:00 PM ET

Jobs and Population: Keeping up with America's population growth

Editor's Note: This article continues our series excerpted from AC360°'s contributor David Gewirtz's book, How To Save Jobs, which is available now. AC360° viewers can download it for free at HowToSaveJobs.org. To learn more about the book, follow David on Twitter @DavidGewirtz.

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David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

So far, we’ve talked about China’s and India’s population, but now let’s look specifically at the American labor force. The Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly comes up with a number that represents the civilian, non-institutional population as those individuals, 16-years-old and older, who are not institutionalized (mental health facility, hospital, prison, etc).

This civilian, non-institutional population number is key, because it reflects the number of people in America who need jobs. Obviously, not all working-age Americans will be part of the workforce. Some are house partners. Some are wealthy enough to simply enjoy life. Others live at home with Mommy and Daddy and are enjoying the slacker lifestyle for as long as they can get away with it. And others simply can’t find work.

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My goal with this book is to help create an America where every person who wants a job can get one. The number of people who make up the U.S. civilian, non-institutional population number gives us the number of jobs that need to exist for everyone who wants a job to have a job.

Therefore, this number is very, very important.

If you ever want to have a partisan fight, here’s a great topic: the number of jobs created during a President’s administration. As you might imagine, the party in power will claim success and the party not in power will claim the other side did a terrible job.

That makes coming up with job numbers difficult, but not impossible. What we need is as impartial and unimpeachable a source as possible. Once again we return to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which keeps track of the number of jobs created during each presidential administration. The job count isn’t perfect because BLS doesn’t count self-employment jobs created, but it gives you a pretty good idea of how many jobs corporate America has to create in order to meet the needs of the American people.

Don’t look at this as a partisan issue. Look at this as an American issue.

So let’s go back to Bill Clinton’s time. In 1993, there were about 194 million Americans in the civilian, non-institutional population. By 2000, there 213 million Americans who might want work. The potential labor force population had grown by 19 million people.

Fortunately, during the Clinton’s eight years in office, the total number of jobs also grew. Jobs grew by 22.7 million, more than keeping pace with the increase in the labor force population. The total number of available jobs grew by about 2 million a year, right along with the workforce population.

Before I discuss the George W. Bush years, I need to tell you something. Here’s the thing: I didn’t know the official labor numbers I’m about to show you until I got them from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They’re not good.

Some of you may go all paranoid and think I’m showing bad Bush numbers to be partisan. I’m not.

This is a desperately serious issue and I’m working from the most credible source out there. Don’t look at this as a partisan issue. Look at this as an American issue.

The United States is seven years behind in the number of jobs it needed to keep its citizens working

America’s jobs are in trouble and we all - Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, people who like chocolate ice cream and those who, for some unfathomable reason, like vanilla - we all need to work on this together.

OK, deep breath. Here goes.

When George W. Bush came into office in 2001, there were 215 million Americans who might want work. By the end of his administration, in 2008, the population had grown again, and there were 234 million Americans suitable for America’s labor force. The number of people who might want jobs had grown by another 19 million people.

Unfortunately, 19 million jobs were not created during the Bush years. Instead, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a net gain of only 2 million jobs were created. This means that during the eight years of the Bush administration, only a year’s worth of new jobs were created.

And that means that by the time George W. Bush left office, the United States was seven years behind in the number of jobs it needed to keep its citizens working.

I’ve often heard that if you ask 10 different economists to explain why the economy behaved in a certain way, you’ll get 10 different answers. In that light, it’s virtually impossible to prove that the jobs growth or lack thereof was a result of the policies of a particular administration. Perhaps it was the luck of the draw, say, that Clinton came in during the boom from the early Internet and Bush governed after major geopolitical changes (like the rise of China and India in the job market).

And, of course, this doesn’t count the nearly 2.7 million jobs lost under President Obama – and we know what the economy was like on the day he took office. If we need to create 2 million jobs a year just to keep up with population growth, the last 12 months puts us 4.7 million behind.

In fact, the main premise of the book has been that although our own financial mismanagement has been problematic, our current jobs situation is far more related to the fact that we’re in a far different world than we were even as recently as the 1990s.

In other words, don’t take from this article that one president or the other was better at creating jobs. Instead, use this article as a lead-in for next week’s piece, which is that, before the financial crisis of 2008-2009 hit, we were already a big pile of jobs in the hole.

Follow David on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz.

Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the ZATZ magazines. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Ron Litton

    STOP the pork in Congress. The media whines about an obesity problem in America. The fat here is in Congress and the Senate putting PORK in all the bills for someone "back home" or for some bozo lobbyist. Let the President, whether he is D or R have a line item veto – AND make public the pork that is asked for by each politician.

    Lets get off the Health Care thing, quit debating it – do it over or do nothing.

    IF there is no real jobs bill to provide private sector employment, every incumbent should be voted out. The only jobs that have been saved or added are in GOVERNMENT. BO should sign an executive order that requires each bank to LOAN 10% of all loan to small biz. That should include startups - which banks never want to do. Anything to get money to the street would be better than in the pockets of the Wallstreet jerk offs and bank execs.

    February 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  2. pat-orangeburg, ny

    I wanted to comment, but after reading the article, I have no comment-this is depressing! Again, I can only say that our President is smart and he is working on moving our economy in the right direcyion.

    February 19, 2010 at 9:34 pm |