What About Those 4.5 Million Jobs ...

Anyone watching the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night heard the number 4.5 million several times.

"Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we've seen 4.5 million new jobs," San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the party's keynote speaker, said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as President Barack Obama's chief of staff, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who followed Obama's November rival Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, both cited the same number.

It's a big-sounding number, given the still-sputtering job market. So we're giving it a close eyeballing.

The facts:

The number Castro cites is an accurate description of the growth of private-sector jobs since January 2010, when the long, steep slide in employment finally hit bottom. But while a total of 4.5 million jobs sounds great, it's not the whole picture.

Nonfarm private payrolls hit a post-recession low of 106.8 million that month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure currently stands at 111.3 million as of July.

While that is indeed a gain of 4.5 million, it's only a net gain of 300,000 over the course of the Obama administration to date. The private jobs figure stood at 111 million in January 2009, the month Obama took office.

And total nonfarm payrolls, including government workers, are down from 133.6 million workers at the beginning of 2009 to 133.2 million in July 2012. There's been a net loss of nearly 1 million public-sector jobs since Obama took office, despite a surge in temporary hiring for the 2010 census.

Meanwhile, the jobs that have come back aren't the same ones that were lost.

According to a study released last week by the liberal-leaning National Employment Law Project, low-wage fields such as retail sales and food service are adding jobs nearly three times as fast as higher-paid occupations.

Conclusion:

The figure of 4.5 million jobs is accurate if you look at the most favorable period and category for the administration. But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession.

By Erin B 09/05/2012 01:44:00