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Obama’s Last Year: Another Non-Productive One for U.S. Economy

Jan. 6, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Labor Department reported today that "goods-producing employment" in the U.S. economy—generally including manufacturing and industry, mining, and construction—had dropped by 61,000 during 2016. Manufacturing lost 63,000 jobs, mining (oil and gas) lost 102,000 and construction gained 106,000. Overall labor productivity (reported separately) had declined through the first three quarters of the year by approximately 0.6%; fourth quarter productivity data is not yet published.

The average workweek declined from 33.4 to 33.3 hours during 2016, and average weekly wages rose by just $20, or 2.4%, before taking rises in living costs into account.

The Labor Department’s "headline" report was on employment changes in December, and at a 156,000 reported gain in employment—virtually all in services sectors—it was well below that "expected by economists." For the year as a whole, total employment is reported to have increased by just over 2 million, a sharp slowdown from 2.7 million in 2015.

During Barack Obama’s eight years in office, goods-producing employment has dropped by almost exactly 700,000 jobs.

During the Bush-to-Obama decade from December 2006-December 2016, including the 2008 financial crash and so-called Obama recovery, what is called the "civilian non-institutionalized population"—that is, the part of the over-16 population from which the labor force can be drawn—grew by 24.6 million people, from 230.1 million to 254.7 million. But the labor force itself grew, during that decade, by just 6.3 million, from 152.6 million to 158.9 million. So in net effect, three-quarters of all those who became eligible to join the labor force during that decade, did not do so, or entered and then dropped out again.

In the decade 2000-2010, that "labor force abstention" rate was 70%; and it stood out like a sore thumb from the two previous decades, when it had been approximately 40% (1980s) and 30% (1990s). But the decade since December 2006 has been even worse, with about 75% of those newly eligible, winding up out of the workforce.