Weapons of Math Destruction, Part III

CORRECTION: Brad re-ran the numbers and finds that the actual necessary job growth is 320,000/month, not 470,000. That’s still an impossible target: it’s been reached in only 18 of the 119 months between Feb. 1994 and Dec. 2003.

Brad DeLong catches another one: Table 3-1 of the 2004 The Economic Report of the President, on page 98 predicts that the US economy will average 132.7 million jobs in 2004 (not end with, but average); 2003 averaged 130.1 million jobs. Given the January number Brad ballparks that the economy will need to create 470,000 new jobs per month for the rest of the year (we’ve lost about 2.2 million jobs since Bush took office.)

How could this get into the budget? In a follow up post, Brad speculates that

Whatever powerful person it was then called the forecasters in on the carpet: “We cannot publish a number saying that payroll employment in 2004 will be lower than it was at the start of the administration. That number *must* be bigger than 132.5 million [the number at the start of Bush’s administration]. If that number is smaller than 132.5 million, there will be lots of negative newspaper stories saying ‘Bush administration forecasts negative job growth over first term’. We can’t have that.”

And so the number is 132.7 million.

But perhaps Brad is too harsh. Maybe, just maybe, 470,000 per month isn’t that crazy — we all remember the booming Clinton years; surely they had monthly job growth over 470,000. How often was monthly job growth over 400,000 under Clinton? The answer: 7 times, and in only two of those months were over 470,000+ jobs added. That’s right, the prediction underlying the jobs numbers in the current Economic Report of the President requires that the economy create more jobs in the next 11 months in a row than it created in any eleven months in the last decade (not 11 months in a row, the best 11 months out of the last 120 months). Here are the data, color coded to help the reader see how times have changed:

Flat out, the 132.7 million jobs in 2004 is impossible and whoever wrote that knows this. It is a lie, not a mistake or misguided optimism.


UPDATE: Further proof that the 470,000 target is impossible. Atrios says “I believe after the last tax cut I promised that if they made their jobs projection I would vote for Bush in ’04. I make that promise once again with this new round of numbers.”