Since January 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, the United States has seen 54 straight months with the unemployment rate at 7.5 percent or higher, which is the longest stretch of unemployment at or above that rate since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started calculating the national unemployment rate.
Today, BLS reported that the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate for June was 7.6 percent, the same it was in May.
In December 2008, the month after Obama was first elected and the month before he was inaugurated, unemployment was 7.3 percent. In January 2009, it climbed to 7.8 percent. In February, the month Obama signed what the Congressional Budget Office would later determine was an $830 billion economic stimulus law, the unemployment rate climbed to 8.3 percent.
In the Obama era, the unemployment rate peaked at 10.0 percent in October 2010. It did not dip below 9 percent until October 2011, when it hit 8.9 percent. From August to September 2012, it dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent—the first time during Obama’s tenure it went under 8 percent.
Since then, the lowest it has gone has been 7.5 percent—the rate it hit in April. But after April, it ticked back up to 7.6 percent in May and stayed at 7.6 percent in June.
Prior to Obama’s presidency, the longest stretch of national unemployment at 7.5 percent or higher, as reported by the BLS, was 32 months from September 1981 through April 1984. From August 1981 to September 1981, unemployment climbed from 7.4 percent to 7.6 percent. It then stayed above 7.5 percent until April 1984, when it was at 7.7 percent. In May 1984, it dropped to 7.4 percent.
On January 10, 2009, Christina Romer, who was President-elect Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, and Jared Bernstein, who was Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, published a report predicting that if Obama’s proposed stimulus plan were enacted the unemployment rate would not top 8 percent.
In a February 2013 report on the impact of Obama’s stimulus law—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—the Congressional Budget Office said that it estimated the law would have the net effect of increasing federal budget deficits by $830 billion between 2009 and 2019.
CBO also estimated that the stimulus had the impact in the last quarter of 2012 of lowering “the unemployment rate by between 0.1 percentage points and 0.4 percentage points.”
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