* Sigh.*

@TBPInvictus here

I see once again that the canard about Reagan’s million-jobs-month is making the rounds:

“Reagan’s best job month garnered the very top ranking since WWII with 1,114,000 jobs added in September 1983. A single month with more than a million jobs added. So far Obama can only wish for such a total.”

This is either journalistic incompetence or deliberate deceitfulness. Those of you who keep repeating this falsehood — including some once-reputable media outlets — are committing journalistic malpractice. And shame on you, Senator Rob Portman.

So, for the second time in three months (see here for the first go-round) – and then on to a related topic – here we go:

The Reagan recovery simply did not include a month in which anywhere near one million jobs were created. It did include two months in which almost 700,000 AT&T workers went on strike and then returned. Those workers dinged the NFP number one month and subsequently goosed it the next. There’s no magic about this whatsoever; it could not be clearer. If I loan you $10 one month and you pay me back $11 the next, two things: 1) I’m a usurious bastard and 2) i did not “make” $11 the second month. Those who initiated this canard (thinking WSJ editorial page), and the countless bobbleheads who have mindlessly repeated it, have done everyone a great disservice.

I’ve retrieved and posted the two relevant BLS releases to my Scribd page.

Here’s the NY Times at the time:

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 6.17.09 PM

Here’s an excerpt from the BLS release the month before Reagan’s million-jobs miracle (when the striking workers returned). Note the “nationwide strike of some 700,000 communications workers.”

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 6.19.36 PM

All that said, I started thinking about that period of time in a larger context. I thought about what has become of labor’s leverage (or lack thereof) over the intervening years. I reached out to a friend at the St. Louis Fed, who found the data set I needed – Net Change in Number of Workers on Strike, persons, with the following definition:

Net change in the number of persons on strike is the number of persons newly on strike minus the number who returned to work after a settlement. Only strikes involving at least 1,000 workers are covered.

The table below is fairly self-explanatory, and tells a sad story about labor’s diminished – and diminishing – power, as evidenced by the ongoing decline in strikes (aka “work stoppages”). To be crystal clear here: Like everyone else, I have on occasion suffered as a result of striking workers in one industry or another. And it’s no fun. Then again, I’m sure it’s no fun for the strikers, either. I’m sure they’d rather not be on strike. The point is that one of labor’s Hail Mary, last-resort tactics has become virtually extinct, dealing a blow to the labor force.


Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 6.51.56 PM

Given that, is it any wonder that labor’s share of the spoils has just bounced off a record low (props to Slick Willy for at least temporarily turning things around).




See Bruce Bartlett on labor share here.

Category: Analysts, Cognitive Foibles, Data Analysis, Financial Press, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

45 Responses to “Reagan’s Million-Jobs Month Revisited”

  1. AtlasRocked says:

    Reagan borrowed our way out of a recession just like everyone has since Carter, here are their 4 year debt ratios, per yearly GDP:

    bush I……..48%……..32…….2.75


    No real GDP growth has been created in this period, if you subtract out debt:


    • lrh says:

      Off the main topic but…

      When you write ” Reagan borrowed our way out of a recession just like everybody since Carter”, do you mean simply he borrowed or that his borrowing got us out of our recession?

      Is borrowing a coincidence, correlate with, does it actually the cause of the effect, “getting out of our recession(s)”?

      • AtlasRocked says:

        I mean his administration – with BOTH parties participating – created the illusion of debt “curing” a recession. And the chart below it proves the point without question. No president has paid back any debt, they have only expanded it. Or, like Clinton, “borrowed it” from Social security, same as the Dumb and Dumber briefcase IOUs.

      • Angryman1 says:

        meh, the expansion itself, wasn’t “that” impressive. “debt” was going to be larger anyway. The only thing that began in real terms was leverage…………..I don’t think “debt” was what you think and the whole post reeks of self-rightous back patting.

        I think the Clinton labor share rise era also shows that the “great investment” drought didn’t begin in the 00′s, but in the 80′s outside the computer revolution’s “Y2K” refit.

    • Petey Wheatstraw says:

      If I remember correctly (and Dick Cheney has seemed to confirm that I do), Reagan took us from greatest creditor to greatest debtor nation in less than 8 years. Reagan created a debt junkie.

      • AtlasRocked says:

        Petey, you remember everything conservatives do that are really liberal money policies, like borrowing money to create the illusion of wealth. Reagan was NOT a fiscal conservative.

      • Angryman1 says:

        If Reagan was a “fiscal conservative”, he wouldn’t have been reelected and you still wouldn’t have a “fiscal conservative”. Stop acting like “debt” got this country out of anything. The lack of investment since Q4 1979 is the key to higher “debt levels” sans Y2K era.

      • willid3 says:

        well,. since i was around back then, I do recall that the president proposed large defense expenditures, which Congress agreed to. so unless the president really didnt want to spend that much, why didnt he veto it? since that spending did lead to a huge amount of debt. now you can exactly excuse Congress either. so both did it.

  2. ByteMe says:

    During the same period, we shifted a large slice of our economy from a manufacturing base to a services base and the unions didn’t keep up with that shift. Unionizing hotel and fast-food workers would be a start to reversing the trend, but so many states have anti-union laws now that it might be nearly impossible to put the genie back in the bottle without a large-scale strike against companies that treat their employees like cattle.

  3. Hallsto says:

    Bigger fool: the fool or the fool who argues with the fool?

  4. Greg0658 says:

    this wrench spinner box tosser thinks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident was one of the gold tickets for Pres.Reagan

    the 4 years 5 months provided engineers time to rehash safety for our plants
    (many new nukes were just coming online) (in scope of nuke plant life)
    now send those plans to fab shops, then to the field for installation

    those were some great paycheck days .. and some people spend their paychecks into somebodies economy – multiply’g the effect

    here in present day – the still needed nukes (to drive our tv radio www) – need to get the current crop of investors to their grave
    .. hows the phrase go IBG-YBG .. or maybe IBG-You Deal With It

    time for a disaster economy me thinks – to get the juices flowing .. alas – juice flows only when it must

  5. FNG says:


    You are not a fool. Biased yes, fool no.

    I am sure it gets quite old having to remind people of the constant spin/bullshit that comes from BOTH parties and their media lackeys. (eventhough you generally only point out the other sides bs…)

    Nevertheless, though we may chose different roads I believe we desire the same destination.

    Read ya around!

    • VennData says:


      Please provide DATA to support your point. Invictus does. Can’t you?

      Oh you can’t… that’s a GOP theme these days.

    • Hallsto says:

      Simply pointing out that we all know anyone parroting the decades old meme that Reagan (or any President) did much to impact the economy, is a fool. Invictus is willfully creating an argument by engaging this group. What point does that prove? You think anyone who talks politics in either the liberal or conservative paradigms has a clue?

      • VennData says:

        Define “who talks politics in either the liberal or conservative paradigm…”

        These are facts. Facts are only a paradigm if you assume non-facts are a paradigm.

        Facts are not a paradigm.

      • Hallsto says:

        If you’re an individual who engages in the blue hat vs red hat tug-o-war that many Americans consider “politics”, I’ve got some bad news for you. You aren’t analyzing politics along reasonable terms, you’re taking part in a massive tribal game. Politics are built upon reasonable applications of philosophies to societies. Unfortunately there is a serious lack of consistent philosophy in the modern political conversation.

        For instance. If, in 1780, you were to call yourself a liberal, your outlook would be one which embraces liberty for humanity. Building upon that philosophical bedrock one can draw an array of appropriate responses to various issues generally focused on preserving individual liberty.

        Today the term liberal has been perverted to more or less represent, for lack of a better term, a team (same with conservatives). Perhaps you signed up because you were passionate about the “liberal’s” passion for defense of social freedoms: marriage equality, prohibition, etc. Now, while your basic premise for being a liberal might be the fevered support of a social freedom, you’re pressured into voting for candidates who might not share a consistent philosophy on other matters, fiscal or union support, for example.

        The language of politics has been hijacked. Where what once existed was a consistent philosophical message and its applications, now stands a hodgepodge of random stances on random issues sewn together through a tradition of institutionalized bickering.

        Cognitive dissonance pigeonholes the opinions engaged in this paradigm. This is on display every time you read a good red vs blue argument. Both sides have loads of ammo, both reasonably believe their criticisms are valid, yet somehow both believe the other side has spit-wads while they are holding nukes.

        Invoking fact versus opinion is missing the point entirely. Neither side sees the other side’s argument as “fact” or even an opinion worth looking into. That’s the paradigm I’m referring to, a lack of honest consideration.

      • flakester says:

        Great post and take down of the “teams”.

        The “best” part is that it plays right into increasing polarization and hot head moments where somebody is wrong on the internet, none of which is a good indicator for the future.

  6. FNG says:

    And if I wasn’t clear, “Reagan’s million job month” is pure spin!

    • VennData says:

      The whole Reagan Myth allows Republicans to dismiss anything with some Reagan reference, like facts. Like tax cuts, Like them being the party of small government. The whole party is a myth

  7. NoKidding says:

    I make my best effort to criticize every Invictus post, but there’s not much here to dispute.

    The best I can come up with is:
    “The table below is fairly self-explanatory, and tells a sad story about labor’s diminished – and diminishing – power, as evidenced by the ongoing decline in strikes (aka “work stoppages”). ”

    Is it sad that strikes and union participation are down? If you measure based on relative wealth (the “I want my neighbor’s stuff” index), you might think labor is losing. If you measure by absolute wealth (the “what education do I have, what car do I drive, how many gadgets do I own, how many square feet do I live in, how many meals do I miss, where do I go on vacation, how often do I replace things instead of learning to fix them, how well do my clothes fit, how long can I expect to live index), you migh think differently.

    Is it possible that labor disputes are down because life is a little bit more forgiving today, even for a broke, unemployed, HS educated, blue collar first generation minority?

    • DeDude says:

      Real wages have not increased since Reagan broke the unions – so life has not become any more “forgiving” for anybody except the top 20%.

      • NoKidding says:

        I came from the 50th income percentile, shoplifted Michael Jackson Thriller on cassette tape from Caldor, momma had no car, never saw the inside of a restaraunt til I was a teenager, and a birthday party was new play clothes and a home made cake.

        Today, 50th income percentile has an iPod, a car at age 16, orders pizza for dinner, has birthdays at an inflatable bounce house. Probably does Disney by age 10.

        Its not the same world as it was in 1980. It is more comfortable. At 2PM on a work day, internet message boards are in full swing.

      • DeDude says:

        The fact that you instead of increased salary can purchase a lot more stuff on credit, does not make life more “forgiving”. Some would say that it is less, since you are left with the stress of debt (ask an underwater homeowner). The fact that job security has evaporated for blue color workers, as corporations have no hesitation moving the work overseas, would also suggest that life is not any more “forgiving”. The main reason that labor disputes are down is that people have found the deck stacked so badly against them, that they have given up on the idea of creating unions and fighting for justice.

    • willid3 says:

      sad to day, not only is blue collar just minorities, its also whites too. and not sure that we can compare what they can buy, since lots of electronics are really unrepairable any more. and lots of parts of cars end up being replaced because there isnt really a way to determine wh ythe part failed and fix it any more. its just not made that way. but then consider the latest generations arent buying cars like baby boomers did. does that really mean based on your comment that they are really in much worse shape just because they dont buy the same things any more?

  8. theexpertisin says:

    I wonder how many of the Reagan-era jobs were part time? I wonder what percentage of the labor force during his era quit seeking employment entirely? I wonder if the middle class profited from his two terms in office – or were they stuck on the low end of some financial misery index?

    My recollection of the Reagan years as a whole was one of optimism and a big sigh of relief from the Carter regime. Then again, I was living in the “rust belt” without the NYT to tell me what an incompetent cowboy, B-rated actor Reagan was.

  9. ancientone says:

    Dear NoKidding, if you think that the middle class is better off today than they were in 1980 when Reagan began the union-busting and outsourcing that has greatly lowered American workers’ wages, you live on a different planet than I do.

  10. Teejay says:

    I’m at pains to recall where I read one Reagan Administration statistical sleight of hand was to include
    active duty servicemen as part of the “employed”.

  11. rj chicago says:

    Rome burns and y’all bicker!! Sheesh!!!
    I pray that one day we ALL wake the F… up and come to understand that the elites – whether they be in media, finance, gubmit etc. name your poison want nothing more than to have us ALL at each other’s throats while they sit in their chaise lounges at the local party hall – twirling their martini’s with the right and the left index finger and enjoy the games we are playing in. Wake the F…up!!!

  12. FNG says:

    rj chicago,

    well said!

  13. AtlasRocked says:

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why the Democrat leaders, and to a lesser extent Republicans, and their constituency are telling mass lies and encouraging mass lawbreaking now. Polybius documented the failure of democray 2400 years ago. It’s the same failure now.

    It’s simply the story of the “dishonest salesman”.
    • All governments are prone to lying
    • No matter which party is in power both parties are prone to lying.
    • Citizens are prone to bribery – if you pay someone enough money, they will lie for you. A “dishonest salesman”, which is so common it’s actually a stereotype, is a common example of buying an advocate to be dishonest about a product or idea. You can always find a sizable group that can be paid to advocate cause, at some level of purchase, but usually it’s a pretty low barrier since most citizens live hand to mouth.
    • Middle class citizens, the US’ largest recipients of benefits, are also bought to a larger degree, it’s not just the poor. Nearly everyone is in on the money grab in some manner, a true addiction to ill gotten money.

    If one party pays its constituents “enough” money, they can get those constituents to repeat the government lies. “We’re not spying on citizens.” “14 year old black boy chased and shot by white racists neighborhood watch bully.” “We’re not singling out conservatives” – while the DHS shows up heavily at 1 day of 100% peaceful Conservative IRS protests, but none of the disruptive, vandalizing, expensive, Leftist “occupy” protests – go look it up!

    Polybius documents the death of Democracy to this cause: “By which means when, in their senseless mania for reputation, they have made the populace ready and greedy to receive bribes, the virtue of democracy is destroyed, and it is transformed into a governmen of violence and the strong hand.” – Polybius

    The PEOPLE are the problem, folks, not the leaders.

    • FNG says:


      I agree as well, except to say. “We the People” are the problem. The question, “Why that is?”, would make for a very interesting/emotional/exasperating thread I’m sure!

    • VennData says:

      Factless arm-waving:

      “…It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why the Democrat leaders, and to a lesser extent Republicans, and their constituency are telling mass lies…” How do you measure this?

      “…nearly everyone is on on the money grab…” How do you know this?

      “…while the DHS shows up heavily at 1 day of 100% peaceful Conservative IRS protests, but none of the disruptive, vandalizing, expensive, Leftist “occupy” protests – go look it up!” can’t find it.

      You are not fact-based. You are emotional.

      • AtlasRocked says:

        VennData uses consistently false arguments, so this post is for all of you that are reading this that enjoy showing what a dishonest debater he is, not for VD:

        Business as Usual? Let’s count each administrations Fraud, Lies and Deceptions for the last 40 years:

        CARTER: No fiscal deceptions, no lying documentation, federal deficit up 40%

        REAGAN: Iran Contra (w/national apology), 2×60% deficit increases, S&L regulatory failure, but it was prosecuted.

        BUSH I: Procecutes 1000 bankers for S&L crisis, Both parties cheer the prosecution. no fiscal deceptions. 50% deficit increase.

        CLINTON: Social security used as slush fund, $128B removed legally. Glass Steagal abrogated by decree, then ended by legislation. Gov’t begins bullying banks to loan to unqualified buyers. Housing bubble begins. 30%, +11% deficit increases.

        W: Deregulation expands. Mass loans to middle class underqualified buyers begins. Interest rates kept too low. 2 +30% deficit increases. TARP enacted, but not abused yet. Pelosi’s 2010 FCIC report identifies mass fraud in banks, real estate, loans. Fiscal prosecution rate – same as Clinton, but fraud is WAAY UP. No one cares except staunch fiscal conservatives, who are not in power.

        OBAMA: TARP abused, mass bailouts. Interest rates still way below healthy levels.
        -50% deficit increase in first term
        -Obama refuses to prosecute the FCIC report on Bush-era crime

        * snip *


        BR: Nice history!

      • AtlasRocked says:

        And the gigantic list for Obama is removed. The cover up continues.

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”

      I guess you are just following our host’s orders.

  14. S Brennan says:

    Why are conversations of this type pushed by both “left” and right?

    Lost in this type of false “dialogue” is a simple fact; no matter who you compare Obama to [Republican/Democrat], he’s done a lousy job….unless you are in the top 3-1%, are a big fan of wars of aggression, support a Stasis surveillance state..et al.

    The weird part to me, our policies have remained static throughout the Bush/Obama administration, if you like Obama, you like Bush, if like Bush, you like Obama…no substantive difference, just an [R] vs [D] oh, and the verbiage they spew, but really…no need to argue.

    • Angryman1 says:

      The recovery in Reagans time was mostly due to the Volcker Fed’s stoppage in fighting the inflation boogieman. Of course the economy was going to recover, the problem is, it didn’t recover like in the past. Investment was still suppressed and outside Y2K, has been. That is why labor share decreases.

      GDP was 2.8% in the 80′s(3.6% in the 70′s)……..the key is lack of income growth and increase of rentier income. It changes investment patterns

  15. Livermore Shimervore says:

    While I am no longer a supporter of either party, (you are hurting the country more by being a partisan than being even apathetic), I am reminded of Republican Bobby Jindal’s recent words:

    “We have to stop being the party of stupid”.

    See, Republicans should know better. They are usually more educated. Or perhaps that was the past.

  16. S Brennan says:

    Since some above started touting Reagan’s [Hope & Change] Vs Carter’s [Malaise]

    Myth: Carter ruined the economy; Reagan saved it.

    Fact: The Federal Reserve Board was responsible for the events of the late 70s and 80s.


    Carter cannot be blamed for the double-digit inflation that peaked on his watch, because inflation started growing in 1965 and snowballed for the next 15 years. To battle inflation, Carter appointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, who defeated it by putting the nation through an intentional recession. Once the threat of inflation abated in late 1982, Volcker cut interest rates and flooded the economy with money, fueling an expansion that lasted seven years. Neither Carter nor Reagan had much to do with the economic events that occurred during their terms.


    In 1980, the “misery index” — unemployment plus inflation — crested 20 percent for the first time since World War II. Ronald Reagan blamed this on Jimmy Carter, and went on to win the White House. Reagan then caught the business cycle on an upswing, for what conservatives call “the Seven Fat Years” or “the longest economic expansion in peacetime history.”

    Were either of these presidents responsible for their fortune with the economy? No. Carter battled the peak of an inflationary trend that began in 1965. In the following chart, take special notice of the long, slow climb in the inflation column:

    Year Inflation Unemployment (1)
    1961 1.0% 6.7%
    1962 1.0 5.6
    1963 1.3 5.6
    1964 1.3 5.2
    1965 1.6 4.5 < Vietnam war spending increases
    1966 2.9 3.8
    1967 3.1 3.8
    1968 4.2 3.5
    1969 5.5 3.5
    1970 5.7 5.0
    1971 4.4 6.0
    1972 3.2 5.6
    1973 6.2 4.9
    1974 11.0 5.6 < First oil crisis
    1975 9.1 8.5
    1976 5.8 7.7
    1977 6.5 7.1
    1978 7.6 6.1
    1979 11.3 5.9 < Second oil crisis
    1980 13.5 7.2
    1981 10.3 7.6
    1982 6.2 9.7
    1983 3.2 9.6
    1984 4.3 7.5
    In 1965, President Johnson started increasing deficit spending to fund the Vietnam war. This fiscal policy (as predicted by Keynesian theory) increased inflation and reduced unemployment.

    Unfortunately, inflation is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If business owners expect it, and raise their prices by the anticipated amount to compensate for it, then they have created the very inflation they fear. This process forms a vicious circle — inflationary expectations and price increases feed off each other, with the potential of creating hyper-inflation. Unfortunately, economic theory at the time was such that economists didn't know how to stop it, at least safely.

    Growing inflation in the 70s received two huge boosts: the first comprised the late-1973 and 1979 oil shocks from OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). Soaring oil prices compelled most American businesses to raise their prices as well, with inflationary results. The second boost to inflation came in the form of food harvest failures around the world, which created soaring prices on the world food market. Again, U.S. companies that imported food responded with an inflationary rise in their prices.

    All this was accompanied by a growing crisis in monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. Traditionally, the Fed has fought inflation by contracting the money supply, and fought unemployment by expanding it. In the 60s, the Fed conducted an expansionary policy, accepting higher inflation in return for lower unemployment. It soon became clear, however, that this strategy was flawed. Expanding the money supply created jobs because it put more money in the hands of employers and consumers, who spent it. But eventually businesses learned to expect these monetary increases, and they simply raised their prices by the anticipated amount (instead of hiring more workers). The result was that the Fed gradually lost its ability to keep down unemployment; the more money it pumped into the economy, the more businesses raised their prices. As a result, both inflation and unemployment started growing together, forming a twin monster that economist Paul Samuelson dubbed "stagflation."

    Stagflation happened to reach its peak on Carter's watch, spurred on by the 1979 oil shock. How Carter can be blamed for a trend that began a decade and a half earlier is a mystery — and a testimony as to how presidential candidates often exploit the public's economic ignorance for their own political gain.

    However, Carter did in fact take a tremendously important step in ending stagflation. He nominated Paul Volcker for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Volcker was committed to eradicating stagflation by giving the nation some bitter medicine: an intentional recession. In 1980, Volcker tightened the money supply, which stopped job growth in the economy. In response to hard times, businesses began cutting their prices, and workers their wage demands, to stay in business. Volcker argued that eventually this would wring inflationary expectations out of the system.

    The recovery of 1981 was unintentional, and with inflation still high, Volcker tightened the money supply even more severely in 1982. This resulted in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment in the final quarter of 1982 soared to over 10 percent, and Volcker was accused of the "cold-blooded murder of millions of jobs." Even high-ranking members of Reagan's staff were vehemently opposed to his actions. Congress actually considered bringing the independent Fed under the government's direct control, to avoid such economic pain in the future. Today, economists calculate that the cost of Volcker's anti-inflation medicine was $1 trillion — an astounding sum. But Wall Street demanded that Volcker stay the course, and that may have been the only thing that saved him.


    • Iamthe50percent says:

      As you note, the inflation starting with the Vietnam buildup of 1965, as it has during every American war (check it out) and probably every war in history (my guess). If any President is too blame, it is Johnson with his “guns and butter” policy.

      • S Brennan says:

        Please recall, the US was ready to end the war in 1967 at the Paris Peace talks, Nixon, engaging naked treason, convinced the South Vietnamese to walk out in order to help his election chances. The US continued the war for four more years, approximately half the military casualties, most of the civilian deaths and over half the expense occur between 1969-72.

        In the end, Nixon settled on terms that were inferior to those offered in 1967.

        Johnson made a horrible policy mistake and tried to correct it. Through Nixon’s maniacal machinations to become President, he decided imperially to extend the war. Anytime we blame LBJ, we should note that it was Nixon’s traitorous actions that kept LBJ from correcting his mistake.

      • Iamthe50percent says:

        Operative word was “if”. In any case, “guns and butter” contributed to inflation and the oil shocks drive it double digit.

  17. AtlasRocked says:

    The effort to not talk around the most disastrous event in US economics history . . .


    * snip *

    You need to GYOFB

  18. AtlasRocked says:

    The cover up continues – with the people doing his bidding.