On today's edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity claimed that the U.S. economy has lost two million jobs since President Obama took office.
Hannity's figure echoes a GOP talking point that has been circulating for months. Recently presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during the January 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends that Obama "is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is 2 million jobs that he lost as President." Tonight's comments mark the fourth time since then that Hannity has referenced the two million jobs figure on his Fox News show, according to a Nexis search.
But as Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman points out, such claims about Obama's job record are "deeply misleading" because they take into account job losses that occurred during Obama's "first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect":
Mr. Romney claims that Mr. Obama has been a job destroyer, while he was a job-creating businessman. For example, he told Fox News: "This is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is two million jobs that he lost as president." He went on to declare, of his time at the private equity firm Bain Capital, "I'm very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs."
But his claims about the Obama record border on dishonesty, and his claims about his own record are well across that border.
Start with the Obama record. It's true that 1.9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than when Mr. Obama took office. But the president inherited an economy in free fall, and can't be held responsible for job losses during his first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect. So how much of that Obama job loss took place in, say, the first half of 2009?
The answer is: more than all of it. The economy lost 3.1 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2009 and has since gained 1.2 million jobs. That's not enough, but it's nothing like Mr. Romney's portrait of job destruction.
Incidentally, the previous administration's claims of job growth always started not from Inauguration Day but from August 2003, when Bush-era employment hit its low point. By that standard, Mr. Obama could say that he has created 2.5 million jobs since February 2010.
So Mr. Romney's claims about the Obama job record aren't literally false, but they are deeply misleading.
Krugman isn't the only economist who has poked holes in the argument that Obama is to blame for destroying jobs. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro, the economy shed almost 8 million jobs under Republican policies before the Recovery Act could affect the economy.
From December 2007 to July 2009 -- the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy -- private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans' watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months. The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 - 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs.