On the day of the final release of jobs numbers before the presidential election, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted a comparison of how the job market has fared under President Barack Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
"Under Bush we were LOSING MILLIONS of jobs per month; under Obama we have 3 yrs of gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs per mo," Moore tweeted to his 1.2 million followers.
Were Moore’s figures correct? No -- in fact, Moore conceded so himself when he sent a corrected tweet about five hours later. Let's look at the numbers.
Job losses under Bush
We turned to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government’s official collector of employment numbers. Since Moore didn’t specify what types of jobs he was referring to, we took the most basic measure -- private sector jobs combined with government jobs, not counting farm jobs or the military.
During Bush’s final year -- the year with the heaviest job losses during his tenure -- the monthly net change in jobs bottomed out in the fourth quarter. Between October 2008 and November 2008, the economy shed 803,000 jobs. Between November 2008 and December 2008, the economy lost 661,000 jobs. And between January 2009 and December 2008, the economy lost 818,000 -- the highest number of Bush’s tenure (and higher than any monthly loss under Obama).
That’s a huge number, but it’s not "MILLIONS." In fact, it’s not even 1 million. So Moore’s tweet exaggerated the size of the losses under Bush.
Job gains under Obama
The job picture did eventually improve under Obama, but Moore exaggerates when he says the economy has been gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs per month for the last three years under Obama.
During 2010, the job market expanded by an average of 85,000 per month. In 2011, the average rose to 153,000 per month. And in 2012, the average rose again, to 157,000 per month.
Those numbers are a whole lot better than what the nation experienced in 2008, but these rises don’t qualify as "hundreds of thousands," which we would define as at least 200,000.
What about increases above 200,000 during individual months? Looking at the 34 months since January 2010, the net increase has exceeded 200,000 jobs a total of 10 times, or less than one-third of the time. And several of those were months where the job numbers were boosted only temporarily due to a flurry of hiring for the once-a-decade U.S. Census.
About five hours after Moore's original tweet was posted, and after we had contacted his office, he sent a tweet correcting the record. "Thx for tweets on job loss - worst month w/Bush was 800K+ jobs lost, most months since '10 have had 100K+ jobs gained http://mmflint.me/QbEkPM."
Moore's second tweet was correct.
Moore's initial tweet was incorrect when it said the nation was "losing millions" of jobs per month under Bush, since even the weakest month under Bush saw the economy lose less than 1 million jobs per month. And he was also incorrect to say that the economy has been "gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs" per month for three years under Obama. The economy has averaged well under 200,000 jobs per month during that period and only exceeded the job-gain threshold of 200,000 in 10 months. We applaud his correction, but we still rate his initial tweet False.