Basic Points About the Economy

Basic Points About the Economy

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Jobs

The Bush administration has the weakest job record of any president since World War II. Total employment growth averaged 0.03 percent from January 2001 through February 2006. In fact, only six months had job growth that was faster than the average from 1945 to 2001. Private sector job creation was even lower with 0.02 percent.

The employed share of the population remained at 62.9 percent in February 2006, well below the 64.3 percent recorded at the end of the last business cycle in March 2001. Had the employed share of the population stayed the same, 3.2 million more people would be employed now. Considering these additional people would raise the unemployment rate to 6.8 percent for February 2006, up from the officially reported 4.8 percent.

Income

Wage growth after inflation has been flat. Inflation adjusted hourly earnings of production non-supervisory workers grew by a total of 1.1 percent from the start of the business cycle in March 2001 to January 2006. Average weekly earnings grew by a total of 0.2 percent during the same period. Real hourly wages did not improve for three years and real weekly wages fell in 2003, 2004 and 21005. By January 2006, wages were still below the inflation adjusted wage levels at the start of the recovery in November 2001.

For five years, family incomes did not increase. In inflation adjusted terms, the total income of a typical family was 3.6 percent lower than in 2000. That is, the typical family income in 2004 was at its lowest level since 1997. Income declines were even more pronounced for minority households and for low-income families.

Poverty

Since President Bush took office, 3.7 million more people live in poverty. The share of the population living in poverty has grown from 9.5 percent in 2000 to 10.8 percent in 2004. At the same time, the share of children under the age of 18 who live in poverty has also increased from 16.2 percent to 17.8 percent. That is, 1.4 million more children lived in poverty in 2004 than in 2000.

Christian Weller is a Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress, where he specializes in Social Security and retirement income, macroeconomics, the Federal Reserve, and international finance.