The Private Sector Is Not “Doing Fine,” Contrary to Claims by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Far more people have lost their jobs in the private sector than in the public sector, and the percentage of the economy consumed by the federal government has gone up from 20 percent in 2008 to 24 percent today. But President Obama claims that “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.” Similarly, six months ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) claimed that unemployment was not a problem in the private sector, and that “It’s very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it’s the public-sector jobs where we’ve lost huge numbers.” These claims are utterly false: as a historian notes in the London Telegraph, job losses in America have been “much smaller within the public sector than the private (407,000 vs 4.6 million).” And as a Washington Post columnist notes,

Obama and Reid have it precisely backward: It’s the public sector that’s doing fine. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for government workers last month was just 4.2 percent (up slightly from 3.9 percent a year ago). Compare that to private-sector industries such as construction (14.2 percent unemployment), leisure and hospitality services (9.7 percent), agriculture (9.5 percent), professional and business services (8.5 percent) and wholesale and retail trade (8.1 percent). As Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute points out, the public-sector unemployment rate “is the lowest of any industry or class of worker, even including the growing energy industry.”

Meanwhile, the private sector continues to struggle under the weight of Obamacare, the spiraling national debt, the $46 billion in annual costs of the new regulations imposed by Obama, and the looming threat of “taxmageddon” — when, come January 2013, the private economy will get hit with hundreds of billions in higher taxes. . . 23 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have quit looking for work don’t share their complacency.

Similarly, Amy Paine notes that “If anyone is ‘doing fine,’ it’s government employees. This goes beyond the far more generous pension and health benefits they enjoy. While the private sector lost 4.6 million jobs (a 3.9 percent drop) since the recession began, government payrolls have only fallen by 240,000 jobs (a 1.1 percent drop). Federal employment has actually grown nearly 12 percent since the end of 2007, and while the country suffers from 8.2 percent unemployment, the unemployment rate for government employees is just 4.2 percent.”

Obama administration policies have impeded the economic recovery that otherwise would have taken place. The administration has discouraged hiring through costly new employment-law mandates and burdensome taxes and regulations contained in Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank Act. Obamacare is causing layoffs in the medical device industry, and is preventing some employers from hiring and from making the investments needed for new jobs and expanded operations. The Dodd-Frank law backed by President  Obama has also wiped out jobs and driven thousands of jobs overseas. Indeed, the $46 billion estimate for the cost of new regulations cited by Marc Thiessen is a gross underestimate.

Senator Reid made his ridiculous claim about unemployment not being a problem in the private sector in order to try to justify Obama’s costly American Jobs Act proposals, which would explode the already colossal budget deficit in order to spend billions more on state government employees, who are already much better paid than the average American worker, and who have generous pension benefits that have resulted in trillions in unfunded pension benefits at taxpayer expense.