The Blog

Obama Nearly Takes Employment Back to the 1950s

9:15 AM, Jun 7, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

At this point in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was running for reelection, the Yankees’ 24-year-old Mickey Mantle was on his way to winning the Triple Crown, 37-year-old Jackie Robinson was playing in his final season in the big leagues (eventually helping Brooklyn edge the Milwaukee Braves by 1 game for the pennant), 21-year-old Elvis Presley had just performed “Hound Dog” on The Milton Berle Show, and 57.6 percent of Americans were employed. 

Obama

More than half a century later, President Barack Obama is running for reelection, the Yankees have since won 11 more World Series (including the 1956 classic, when they beat Brooklyn in 7 games as Mantle homered in Game 5 and saved Don Larsen’s perfect game with a brilliant catch), the Dodgers have long since moved to Los Angeles, the iPad and CD player have replaced the turntable, millions upon millions of American women have entered the workforce across the past several decades, representing something of a sea change in American society, and 58.6 percent of Americans are employed — 1 percentage point higher than in 1956.

That’s right: Despite the dramatic influx of women into the workforce, employment rates under Obama are barely surpassing those recorded in the middle of the 1950s. That’s according to official tallies from the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Under every other president in the past quarter of a century, the percentage of Americans who’ve been employed has always been over 60 percent — even during the most recent recession.  Under Obama, however, the employment rate has now remained under 59 percent for 33 consecutive months (and counting) — all of which have come and gone since the most recent recession supposedly ended (in June 2009).

Historically, the American economy has been at its strongest when coming out of a recession — typically, the deeper the recession, the stronger the recovery.  At best, this is by far the weakest “recovery” from a lengthy recession since 1956 and beyond. At worst, it’s not a recovery at all. Consider this:  A higher percentage of Americans were employed during the final month of the recession (59.4 percent, in June 2009) than during the 35th month of the Obama “recovery” (58.6 percent, in May 2012). In terms of employment, the “recovery” has been worse than the recession.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article included an error inserted by an editor about Mantle. The article has been corrected. Read Jeff Anderson's appreciation of Mantle, upon the Mick's death in 1995, here.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers