By Teresa Welsh |
The short answer is yes, the economy has improved due to the policies President Obama implemented with the support of Congress.
Labor market conditions are the most important indicators of whether the economy has improved. Most people get the majority of their income from paid employment and having a good job, with decent pay and benefits including health insurance, retirement, and policies that make sure employees can also be good caregivers for their families. Most have little savings, if any, to rely on.
The labor market is moving in the right direction and this is a testament to the success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other steps taken to address the Great Recession. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the private sector has added jobs every month since March 2010, with 245,000 jobs added on average over the past three months. This is a remarkable turnaround from when President Obama took office and the economy was shedding about 20,000 jobs per day.
As a result of job creation, the share of Americans with a job in February edged up to 58.6 percent, higher than it's been since June 2010. Further, there has also been steady progress to bring unemployment down from its peak of 10.0 percent in October 2009 to 8.3 percent in February.
The Recovery Act and other programs worked because they targeted funds toward a variety of specific job-creation efforts that have been shown to have created jobs and been cost-effective. The President's Council of Economic Advisers credits the Recovery Act with increasing employment through the second quarter of 2011 by 2.2 million to 4.2 million jobs and reducing unemployment by between 0.2 and 1.1 percent. Economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi estimate that the Recovery Act and other fiscal policies resulted in 2.7 million jobs, and that without them unemployment would have hit 11 percent and job losses would have totaled 10 million.
Make no mistake, there has been sure and steady progress in the economy. But, these gains would have been much stronger had conservatives not blocked efforts to invest in much-needed infrastructure and help state and local governments keep employees on the job teaching children and policing streets. The forward economic momentum continues to be at risk as Congress and state and local governments move toward an austerity agenda that will hinder, not promote, strong growth and an improved labor market.
About Heather Boushey Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress
David Primo Author of 'Rules and Restraint: Government Spending the Design of Institutions'
William W. Beach Director of the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation