Public Sector Doing 'Just Fine,' According to Bureau of Labor Statistics Data

Public Sector Doing 'Just Fine,' According to Bureau of Labor Statistics Data

Last Friday, President Barack Obama shockingly said that he felt the private sector economy was “doing fine.” Obama immediately walked back his comments after the gaffe spread not only through conservative blogs but mainstream news outlets. 

In a Washington Post article today, former Bush administration official Marc Thiessen argued that “contrary to President Obama’s claims, it is the public sector that is doing ‘just fine.'” And on a post at the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, Thiessen elaborated on the broader points he made in his column.

Thiessen cited the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found the unemployment rate for government workers last month was just 4.2 percent and compared that percentage to the unemployment rate in various private sector industries, such as: 

-Construction: 14.2% unemployment

-Leisure and hospitality services: 9.7%

-Agriculture: 9.5%

-Professional and business services: 8.5%

-Wholesale and retail trade: 8.1%

According to the American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew Biggs, the public-sector unemployment rate “is the lowest of any industry or class of worker, even including the growing energy industry.” 

As Thiessen points out, “if the rest of Americans enjoyed the same unemployment rate as government workers, Obama would be cruising to reelection,” but Obama “says he wants to do more to help the public sector,” because he thinks the best solution for the country’s economic woes is even more federal spending.

“But if Obama and Reid really wanted to help state and local governments meet the budget challenges they are facing so they can retain more public employees, there is a simple way to do it: Support reforms like those put in place by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker,” Thiessen says, nothing that such reforms would “make public employees contribute something to their pensions and healthcare.”  

Such reforms, Thiessen writes, is the better way “to help state and local governments” than sending “federal tax dollars to subsidize their out of control pension and health care costs,” because supporting such reforms would “make those programs sustainable and put them closer in line with the benefits enjoyed by those in the private sector.”

Obama’s comments about the private sector “doing fine” may have been an inadvertent gaffe or a so-called “Washington gaffe” in which the President said publicly what he really thinks (that the private sector really is doing fine and the federal government should double down on the public sector). Either way, it shows a president who had no experience in the private sector being completely out of touch with what is going on in the economy.