Today’s news that the unemployment rate moved up to 8.3 percent is as good of a time as time as any to revisit the promises the then-incoming administration made in 2009 regarding the economic stimulus bill. Back then they said the stimulus would have unemployment below 6 percent by now.
Not only that but they claimed that the unemployment would be at that 6 percent level now even if the stimulus bill was not passed. That is, that they predicted the economy would recover to that level naturally. In short, the White Houses projections regarding stimulus and the economy were wildly off.
The report, entitled “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” was released on Jan. 9, 2009. It was put out by the office of the president-elect was written by economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein. Romer would become chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama. Bernstein was Vice President Biden’s chief economic advisor.
Page four of the report features a chart projecting the unemployment levels with and without the stimulus. With the stimulus, the Romer and Bernstein predicted that unemployment would never rise past 8 percent, and would peak just under that in the third quarter of 2009 before steadily declining to around 5.6 percent by today. Without the stimulus, they predicted that unemployment would peak around 9 percent in the third quarter of 2010 before declining to around 6 percent today.
The then-Democrat majority Congress passed the $819 billion stimulus bill later that month. The projection turned out to be one of the few things connected to it that was shovel-ready. The unemployment rate reached 10.1 percent in late 2009. It has declined since then but has remained above 8 percent for 41 months straight, a record.
One note: the report assumed that the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2009 would be 7.5 percent. It was in fact 8.2 percent. Economist Lawrence Lindsey later adjusted their forecast to reflect this and found that it projected unemployment to be about 6.3 percent by this time.