Jobs as the Measure of Economic Success, and Rick Perry’s Texas

by Linda Beale

Jobs as the Measure of Economic Success, and Rick Perry’s Texas

We have had a warped sense of how to measure economic success in this country at least since George W. Bush started talking about the “ownership” society.  Of course, we should have guessed that moniker was problematic from the start, since it was ‘invented’ by a guy who bragged about representing the ‘have-mores’ while the economy was rapidly becoming a bi-polar, class-based society of have-mores and have-nots.

Most of the media looks at the gyrations of the Dow Jones Industrial, the S&P 500 and similar indexes of stock pricess and then says our economy is good (if they’re up) or bad (if they’re down).

Folks, that’s only true for those who own most of the financial assets–the rich folks at the top of the scale.  It’s not true for the companies. As Ali Velshi noted in the Daily Show clip on the earlier blog post, companies intrinsic values don’t change by dropping 5% overnight, gaining 3% overnight and then dropping 4% overnight.  The companies are still plodding along doing what they’re doing.  What changes is the attitudes of those secondary investors–more and more of them just quick traders out to arbitrage a temporary price difference who don’t give a damn about the company’s fundamentals.

Now, if you happen to own a few shares of a company that tanks, you clearly care about that stock price plunge.  And if your retirement account is large and heavily invested in stocks, then you care as well.  But fact is, the way we really should measure the economy is by how much and what kind of work it offers to ordinary Americans.  What’s the jobs count?  And what do those jobs pay?

And those numbers are important only relative to other numbers.  You don’t know whether you have a mice or an elephant in terms of job creation unless you know how much your population has grown alongside the growth of those jobs.  This is why the same record on job creation can be made to look good to the naive hearer  (“more than 5 million jobs in 8 years”) or terrible (“only 3 jobs per 1000 new citizens in 8 years”), depending on whether the hearer gets information on the number of new job seekers as well as the number of new jobs available for those seekers.

So Rick Perry brags about his Texas record.  I’ve already posted on the many problems in Texas, some of which Perry is responsible for and most of which he is responsible for not addressing.

What about jobs?  Yes, there is still an oil and gas ‘one-note’ economy that creates directly and indirectly new jobs as the oil and gas industry grows (for now).  Many of those jobs are minimum wage and lots of them are not very secure.   But our question is what about the new jobs to new job seekers ratio–are jobs growing, so that unemployment is going down?  or are jobs growing but not at the same rate that the population is growing?    The fact that the unemployment rate has increased to just below the national average at 8.2% suggests that jobs aren’t growing as fast as the population and maybe that jobs are even shrinking.

Here’s someone else’s take on this question.  The staff at ThinkProgress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund produced a report that delved a little deeper into the Texas jobs numbers and concluded: Texas Ranks Dead Last in Total Job Creation, [when] Accounting for Labor Force Growth, Aug. 17, 2011.

Here are a few facts from the report:

1) Between 2008 and 2010, jobs actually grew at a faster pace in Massachusetts than in Texas.

2) “Texas has done worse than the rest of the country since the peak of national unemployment in October 2009.”

3) The unemployment rate in Texas has been steadily increasing throughout the recession.

4) While over 126,000 net jobs were created in Texas over the last two and a half years, the labor force expanded by over 437,000, meaning that overall Texas has added unemployed workers at a rate much faster than it has created jobs.

5) if there is a real “miracle” here, it is North Dakota, which has seen over 27,000 new jobs and a labor force expansion of only 3,700, resulting in about 24,000 new jobs for workers who previously had none.

The resulting picture comparing Texas to other states in terms of job creation considering labor force increase or decline is the following (note that Michigan’s ‘top’ rating is due to some job creation but primarily to loss of labor force as people without jobs leave the state;  neither Michigan nor Texas has the ‘right stuff’)


Also posted at Ataxingmatter