Neither Bush Recovery Was That Great

Let’s be honest – any debate over the unemployment rate during the Clinton “boom” versus the Bush43 anemic recovery has to be goofy for several reasons. First of all, the recovery from the Bush41 recession began during the second quarter of 1991. Secondly, the fall in the labor force participation rate that followed the 2001 recession makes the unemployment rate a suspect measure of the health of the labor market. For that reason, we have graphed the employment-population rate from January 1991 to March 2007. The bottom during Bush41’s term was 61.2% and this occurred at the end of 1991. The bottom during Bush43’s term was 62.1%, which occurred during July 2003.

Several simple lessons can be drawn from this. One is that the labor market under Bush43 never got quite as bad as the labor market was in 1991. Secondly, the labor market continued to deteriorate during 2002 and early 2003 even as real GDP slowly increased, which is why the Bush43 recovery was initially referred to as the jobless recovery. But let’s go back to the recovery that started in 1991. The employment-population ratio was only 61.4% as we entered 1993. The anemic nature of the Bush41 recession was a major reason Clinton beat Bush41 during the 1992 election. John Kerry tried to make the anemic nature of the Bush43 recovery an issue during the 2004 elections. I guess the Karl Rove fear and smear tactics drowned out the message. But if one compares what happened to the employment-population ratio during Clinton’s Administration to what happened to it under either the Bush41 or Bush43 Administrations, you’ll likely make a few wingnuts quite angry.