In the ad, the President makes the following campaign promise:
President Obama wrote:First, we create a million new manufacturing jobs [...]
The NR blogger's response is dismissive:
The National Review wrote:Well since Obama’s been in office, the nation has actually lost nearly 600,000 manufacturing jobs.
Hmmmm. Who to believe? So I went to the BLS and downloaded the past 20 years' worth of seasonally-adjusted data on private-sector manufacturing jobs.
Manufacturing jobs have been on a downward trend since the mid-1990s. Here is the net change in jobs over each of the past five presidential terms:
1993-1997 (Clinton 1): +0.5 million
1997-2001 (Clinton 2): -0.2 million
2001-2005 (Bush 1): -2.9 million
2005-2009 (Bush 2): -1.7 million
2009-2012 (Obama 1):-0.6 million
OK, clearly the Bush presidency was an absolute disaster for manufacturing jobs. Aside from that, though, the National Review comment does seem to be factually correct -- since President Obama took office, the US has lost nearly 600,000 jobs in manufacturing.
But ... those losses were all during Obama's first year. They were the tail end of a larger collapse in jobs that coincided with the financial crisis, during the last 14 months of Bush's term. Manufacturing jobs hit bottom one year after Obama took office, and have been rising almost continuously since then.
In fact, the past 31 months have by far the largest increase in manufacturing jobs in the past 20 years. On average, since Jan. 2010 the rate of increase is +0.21 million jobs per year.
If you extend that out for four years -- and assume the recovery just keeps limping along slowly the way it has been -- that gives an expected increase of 855,000 manufacturing jobs during the next four years.
That's a little below President Obama's campaign promise of one million new jobs. So he seems to be saying that things will get a little better, but not a lot better.
It's also worth noting that these numbers aren't adjusted for population growth. 214,000 new manufacturing jobs per year represents about 1.7% annual growth. That's pretty good -- it's about twice the overall US population growth rate. So we're keeping even, and actually gaining a bit, but it's still not all that impressive.
On the other hand, it's important to remember that the US manufacturing sector has been in a long-term decline. Viewed in comparison to the trend during Bush's eight years -- when we lost an average of 0.6 million jobs per year for eight years -- this would represent quite a turnaround.
So, the bottom line:
(1) The National Review comment is narrowly correct, but deeply misleading. Manufacturing jobs declined steeply in both of Bush's terms, and collapsed during the last year of his presidency. Obama took office in the middle of this collapse. Manufacturing jobs hit bottom at the end of Obama's first year, turned around, and have been increasing over the past three years at the fastest rate in decades.
(2) The campaign promise in Obama's new TV ad is reasonable if slightly optimistic based on the trend over the past three years. One million new jobs in four years would represent a slight increase over the recent trend. Whether that is impressive or not depends on whether one prefers to see the glass as half empty or half full.