Martin Wolk should review his unemployment graph

MSNBC ran this piece from Martin Wolk entitled Uncertainty over economy could help Kerry. Not a bad title and a good lead graphing the lackluster employment situation. But then his second graph has this caption claiming that “the unemployment rate has been falling”. But look at the graph. Unemployment did fall during the Clinton years – only to rise from 4% to over 6% during the first part of the Bush Administration. Yes, the rate has inched back downwards of late, but Wolk forgets to mention that the civilian labor force to population ratio has declined so the increase in unemployment over the Bush term of office understates how dismal the labor market is.

If you read on, Wolk quotes Bush’s stump speech about how strong the economy is and then fact-checks a bit:

Economic growth in the first three years of the Bush administration actually was pretty lackluster. Gross domestic product rose just 0.8 percent in 2001, 1.9 percent in 2002 and 3 percent in 2003 — the weakest three-year run in a decade, according to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Over the past year the recovery has indeed picked up steam. It is far too early to say, but GDP growth this year could come in at over 4.5 percent, according to some forecasters, which would make it the strongest single year since 1984.

Of course, we had an increase in real GDP from mid-1999 to mid-2000 that exceeded 4.8%. And we are talking an average annual growth rate of only 2.5% during the Bush term as compared to an average annual growth rate of 3.5% during the second half of the 20th century.

Wolk is writing this on the eve of the election with a clear eye to the election. Alas, Wolk’s piece seems to be written in part by Karl Rove rather than with an eye to accurately capturing the economy over the past four years.