Policy: Labor

Obama misleads on jobs picture in AFL-CIO address

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Columnists,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Barack Obama,President,Labor,Analysis,Thomas Perez,AFL-CIO

In a videotaped speech that was played at the AFL-CIO's quadrennial convention Sunday, President Obama touted the millions of jobs that had been created during his administration, deliberately inflating the number by not including the jobs lost over the same period.

"Over the past three and half years, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs," Obama said.

As the Washington Examiner noted when Labor Secretary Tom Perez made the same argument over Labor Day weekend, this figure is highly misleading. According to the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org, the current net jobs creation number under Obama -- that is, gains minus losses -- is the considerably smaller figure of 2.27 million.

Even that provides a misleading picture as Washington Post liberal blogger Ezra Klein pointed out on Aug. 1, citing data from the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The problem is the number of working-age adults with jobs has “barely budged” since 2008:

At the beginning of 2007, the employment rate was 63.3 percent, and the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent. By the end of 2009 — so, after the worst of the recession — it had fallen to 58.3 percent, and unemployment was up to 9.9 percent. Today, it’s 58.7 percent, even though unemployment has fallen to 7.6 percent. That means a lot of the people who’ve left the rolls of the unemployed haven’t gotten a new job. They’ve just left the labor force altogether.

Obama was originally scheduled to speak at the convention, but changed plans after the situation in Syria flared up. He may not have been looking forward to attending the convention though because labor leaders have been pushing his administration hard to provide subsidies for union-managed health care plans, something the plans do not receive under Obamacare.

While administration officials have meet with union leaders on the subject, no deal has been announced. Many in Big Labor are increasingly frustrated over the situation. The White House is resisting because the cost of this "fix" has been estimated as high as $187 billion over a decade.

In his speech, Obama assured the AFL-CIO members that he was with them in spirit.

"Thank you for all you have done for decades on behalf of working America," he said. "This country owes you a debt of gratitude for ensuring that everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead whether they are in a union or not."

President Obama's newly-installed Labor Secretary, Tom Perez, is scheduled to speak at the convention today.

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