clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Two big competing narratives about the job market, and why they're both right

There are two competing narratives out there about full-time work and the current state of the economy, and it's hard to figure out who's right for one simple reason — both narratives are true.

Check out this chart, and I can explain.

One narrative — as seen in this Zero Hedge post — is that the economy is still a disaster because there are still fewer full-time workers than there were back in 2008. Since Barack Obama has been president for most of this time, that narrative sometimes turns into a critique of the Obama administration and its policies. From this, we get the second narrative — which explains that Obama's Part-Time Economy is a total myth and the vast majority of the jobs created during the current recovery are full-time.

The answer to the riddle is that about 6 million full-time jobs were lost between the beginning of the recession and the beginning of the Obama administration. Consequently, you can tell a negative narrative about the economy with the red line and a positive narrative about the Obama administration with the green line.

Obviously partisan politics is something people care about, but the red line is the more important one for policy going forward. We got a great jobs report last week, and the outlook going forward looks pretty good, but this is still an economy with a lot of lingering labor market weakness. If demand for workers grows, America has the workers willing to put in the hours.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.