Mitt’s Misleading Stat

April 11th, 2012 at 10:05 pm

So I’m driving around today and I turn on the news, only to hear Gov. Romney state that 92.3% of the jobs lost over President Obama’s tenure have been lost by women.  That strikes me as a weird and unreliable statistic, possibly correct but certainly cherry-picked.  So I did a little crunching and I also stumbled on an excellent bit of analysis by Cathy Rampell at the NYT.

And sure enough, as the table shows, by moving dates around, I can get pretty much whatever result you seek.  Though politically irresistible, it’s rarely good economics to measure trends over a presidential term as opposed to a business cycle.  President Obama and jobs is a perfect example.  When he came on the scene the job market was hemorrhaging; since Feb 2010, it’s changed course.  It doesn’t make any economic sense to mush those two different periods together.

As you see, net job losses in the recession, or since the recession began, were worse for men, but women have made few net gains since the job market began to recover.  Over to Rampell:

Men are disproportionately employed in industries sensitive to early swings in the business cycle, like manufacturing and construction. These industries took especially big hits this time around, given the housing bust and the troubles of automakers.

In fact, of the overall job losses from December 2007 to January 2009, nearly half were in these two male-dominated industries. (These industries are still not doing particularly well, either.)

Women are disproportionately employed in government, typically as teachers or administrators of some kind.

Government payrolls are generally not hit immediately when recession strikes, but several months or years afterward, when state and local governments are dealing with lower tax revenues from the suffering private sector. There’s therefore a lag between private-sector and public-sector layoffs.

In fact, since President Obama took office, nearly four-fifths of all the jobs lost have been in the female-dominated government sector.

In other words, the ax falls predominantly on women when governments shrink, a trend that many Republicans (including Mr. Romney) have endorsed. The main way to stem these state and local job losses is to give more federal money to the states, a policy that Democrats (including the president) have been supporting and Republicans haven’t.

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8 comments in reply to "Mitt’s Misleading Stat"

  1. Christiaan says:

    Interestingly, the reason why jobs for women haven’t recovered as well as for men yet, is in fact for a large part the fault of government. This is what Romney would like to push. However, it is not the fault of Obama, but rather despite Obama. The fault lies mostly with Republican state governments (which saw the largest decrease in government jobs) as well as a Republican house that rejected Obama’s attempt to keep those education jobs. This reality is what Romney really does not want people to know. I think the best defense is the offense, so Obama should make this point clear and come out with these numbers, they show a clear difference between Republican and Democratic policies and their effects.

    • David says:

      Good point, I’d sure like to see those numbers in one place, that would be quite useful to decimate this fiction that Obama perpetrated or perpetuated this recession.

  2. oli3 says:

    I think it’s just as important to notice the bigger picture here… the overuse of projection by the republican strategists. Rachel Maddow has been pointing it out recently on her show – the well established Rovian tactic of taking whatever your major weakness is and projecting it on to your opponent. You can see this over and over again going back many election cycles. For example, in 2004, when W’s weakness was avoiding overseas military service against an opponent who served heroically in Vietnam – they tried somewhat successfully to twist it to make it advantageous for W.

    In this case, the remarkable sequence of recent events (Komen, Birth Control issues, Santorum’s comments, equal pay issues in Wisconsin, etc,) has given rise to the War on Women meme. It was only a matter of time before projection was trotted out again on the right. This time, they appear to have had to REALLY reach to get anything to try to smear the President. It really was quite clumsy, but at least it gives the Fox commentators something to play with. But it should surprise no one. We will continue to see it every time an issue arises puts the republicans at a disadvantage.

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      That sounds right to me.

    • Lee says:

      This Rovian strategy when all is said and done is just childish thinking which unfortunately is still able to cow the media. Sinking to his level and getting it labeled the You’re Rubber I’m Glue PR strategy might appeal to the writers.

  3. Will says:

    Nearly 80% of jobs lost during the recession have been government jobs. Shouldn’t conservatives be cheering?

  4. Fred Donaldson says:

    There is something evil about folks, who KNOWINGLY use statistics and other facts that they know are lies. Anyone in the public eye, who does this, should be derided, and then ignored for all time.

    Americans have fallen into a trap of saying “that’s politicis, so it’s okay.”

    Statesmen don’t lie – thieves do. Many elected officials on both sides desperately pick financial numbers that totally misrepresent real facts, so they can PRETEND their argument is correct.

    They couldn’t get away with this in a classroom, talking to their wife, or confessing to their clergyman. The public be damned stupid for accepting such dishonesty under any circumstance.

    The biggest lies are the ones about money, and the biggest liars are the ones who want to hide our national income inequality and their corporate subservience.

    We have seen a few lies about weapons, wars and whitewash, but nothing to match so-called trickle-down, dribble-up, where-did-the-money-go, blame grandma and cut her COLA campaign.

  5. Gerry says:

    Dr. Bernstein,

    There’s a great chart here that makes the point more graphically (because it’s a graph).