The Obama Stimulus-Job Loss Graph: the mathematics

The Obama administration has been touting this graph:

The data for this graph is taken from here and here.

So what does this graph show? The graph shows the job losses per month (non-farm jobs, adjusted for seasonal effects) with the upward bars representing job gains; one can clearly see that the economy is losing fewer jobs per month now than it was prior to the stimulus bill being signed. In short, this is the graph of the rate of change of the number of jobs per month; in short, this is a calculus derivative.

In “line” format the above graph corresponds to this one:

So, what does the actual jobs graph look like? Here it is (graphed in a “smoothed out” form):

Note: the vertical line signifies when the stimulus bill was signed into law (February 17, 2010). The units are in thousands.

Of mathematical note is the “negative peak” of the jobs loss graph: it corresponds with the change in the concavity of the jobs graph; the graph goes from being “concave down” to being “concave up”. Of course, the hope is that the jobs graph will eventually go up and not merely level off.

Of course, it is possible for jobs to go up and unemployment to go up at the same time, say, if jobs are being created more slowly than the workforce is expanding.

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February 18, 2010 - Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, economy, politics, politics/social


  1. Related thoughts here but basically the same point that the Obama graph is a bit misleading as it makes it appear that all the damage done in 2009 has been undone

    Comment by Dr. Andy | February 19, 2010 | Reply

    • Ok, it is probably arrogant of me to say this, but yes, much of the general public would be mislead by this; I wasn’t because I understood what the graph meant.

      Ironically, the same issue occurred during the 1984 campaign between Reagan and Mondale; a Reagan pundit (Sununu, I think) made the above argument and Jesse Jackson pointed out what you did.

      Comment by blueollie | February 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. [...] (I’ve discussed how to read this chart here) [...]

    Pingback by 3 April 2010 (am)-Politics « blueollie | April 3, 2010 | Reply

  3. [...] The bars above means private sector jobs created in a particular month; the bars below mean jobs lost in that month. Remember that the number of jobs created have to match the increase in the work force population and those who are looking for work so “break even” would require jobs created. More on the mathematics of it here. [...]

    Pingback by blueollie | January 15, 2012 | Reply

  4. [...] I wrote about what the jobs graph itself means here. So the first chart is one from which one could derive the concavity of the total jobs (NOT jobs [...]

    Pingback by Republican Lying on the economy « blueollie | May 12, 2012 | Reply

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