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Analyzing Job Creation

July 30, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 31

Michael Heylin writes in his letter to the editor that his analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 1945 to 2008 “indicates that if it [the next Administration] turns out to be Democratic, solid job growth would be the norm. If it is Republican, solid job growth would be the exception” (C&EN, June 25, page 4).

Taking into consideration that 1945 was probably a misprint and 1948 was intended, using the BLS data (, Series ID No. CES0500000001) and Heylin’s analysis gives only slightly different numbers but the exact same impression.

However, using the now popular principle that the previous Administration is responsible for what happens early in the new Administration, the results are completely reversed. Using two years of the new Administration as the responsibility of the previous Administration, the analysis shows that Republicans were responsible for producing 39.3 million jobs and not the 25.6 million of Heylin’s analysis. It also shows that Democrats produced 26.3 million jobs and not the 46.4 million of Heylin’s analytical approach.

The two analyses yielded different total numbers of jobs created because the first two years of the Obama Administration had to be included in the performance of the George W. Bush Administration for my analysis to be fair and consistent with this now popular principle. It is also necessary to point out that this analysis shows the three Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush terms are responsible for 20.5 million jobs created—significantly more than the 3.3 million of Reagan’s first term highlighted by Heylin as the best the Republicans could do. Finally, Bill Clinton’s responsibility goes from 21.1 million to 11.9 million jobs and Jimmy Carter’s goes from allegedly creating 9.2 million jobs to 13,000 jobs, a number more consistent with conventional wisdom.

Comparing the two analyses shows that changing the way the data are clustered to reflect a principle favored by the current Administration and by Heylin himself, gives very different results.

My calculations are not meant to convince anyone to vote for a particular party and, in fact, are no more complete or less misleading than Heylin’s. They are intended to show that job creation is a very complex phenomenon and does not depend solely on the party that occupies the White House. An analysis that does not consider the composition of Congress; tax laws; interest rates; credit regulations; wars; the normal economic cycles; whether the president is liberal, moderate, or conservative; and so on is of little value. A one-variable evaluation gives a much-distorted picture of cause and effect.

By H. Burnham Tinker
Shaker Heights, Ohio


May 14, page 13: Croda’s Keramimic 2.0 hair treatment protein is derived from wool, not lanolin.

June 4, page 21: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne is located in Switzerland, not France. Also, G24i claims its dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC) is almost five times as powerful as an amorphous silicon cell, not the next best DSC.

June 4, page 25: The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, not the Nanotechnology Institute, had provided more than $55 million to 450 early-stage nanotech companies, which raised about $1 billion in follow-on investments.

June 25, page 4: A “This Week Online” blurb and its related online-only story (“Slippery Coating Keeps Metals Frost-Free,” incorrectly stated that current defrosting techniques require either corrosive chemicals or periodic heating. In fact, some techniques use chemicals that are not corrosive but are still environmentally harmful.

June 25, page 32: The image is from the FBI, not Robert Rathe.

July 23, page 33: Women account for just two of the 44 fellows elected in 2012 by the U.K.’s Royal Society, not the Royal Society of Chemistry.


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