Presidents and jobs

October 19, 2012

For me, one of the unintentionally amusing parts of election campaigns is the focus on jobs.  Candidates claim they’ll create millions of jobs.  Most economists believe, instead, that the president is a minor factor in job growth.  But how do we convey that collective belief to others?  How do readers know we’re not just making it up?

Now we have an answer.  Our friend Anil Kashyap and his buddies at Chicago Booth have been polling a broad cross-section of economists about economic ideas, and reporting whether or not they agree with specific statements.  This one was about jobs and presidents:

Claims by candidates about how many private-sector jobs can be created should be viewed as rough guesses, because overall macroeconomic conditions drive aggregate employment in ways that dominate any net effects of policies.

I edited the statement — for clarity, I’d claim, but I also took out some qualifications.  But read the original and decide for yourself.

The outcome?  87% of their panel either agreed or agreed strongly with the statement.  It’s still possible we’re making it up, but at least we agree.  The comments are interesting, too.  From Barry Eichengreen:  “Rough guesses is a polite and understated way of putting it.”  From Austan Goolsbee:  “The question is whether rough guesses too generous.”  My answer:  “Yes, it’s too generous.”

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