Center for American Progress

Additional Comment by Scott Lilly on December Employment Numbers
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Additional Comment by Scott Lilly on December Employment Numbers

The statement being repeated by CNBC that the December 2004 employment number makes 2004 the best year for job growth since 1999 leaves a seriously misleading impression of how well the past year stacks up historically in terms of increased job opportunity. The 2.2 million jobs created over the past 12 months represent an increase in total employment of 1.72 percent. That does exceed the 1.46 percent job growth in 2000 and the even slower rate of job creation since then. But if you compare the rate of job growth in 2004 with annual job growth rates since 1939 (when the current Labor Department employment series began) it ranks 43rd out of 65. The average annual rate of job growth over that period was 2.3 percent – a pace about 33 percent faster than the one the nation experienced during the last 12 months. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that there were only four years over the course of the last 65 in which we had slower growth and the economy was not judged by the National Bureau of Economic Research to be in recession and two of those were since 2000.

Below are the annual rates of economic growth as computed from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Web site and the National Bureau of Economic Research’s dating of recessions.

March 2001(I)

March 1991(I)

November 2001 (IV)

Read Scott Lilly's original statement on Dec= employment numbers.

Scott Lilly is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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