Rose Colored Job Growth Glasses Hide the Main Story



For all of 2015, the nation added 2.65 million jobs, capping a two-year, back-to-back gain that was the best since the late 1990s, the government reported on Friday.

Patricia Cohen, Robust Hiring in December Caps Solid Year for U.S. Jobs, New York Times, January 8, 2016.


Ratio of Working Age Population to Jobs Created

Best Two Years of 1990s (1997-98)

Years 2014-2015

Jobs Created in Two Year Period

6.5 million

5.8 million

Working Age Population (ages 18-64) 2000 and 2015 (estimated)

174.1 million

198.9 million

Ratio, Working Age Population to Jobs Created



Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau.


After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. … a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground, Pew Research Center, December 9, 2015.


The decrease in labor force participation lowers incomes independently of wage trends. During an era when employment rates are trending downward, wages will grow faster than household incomes.

Salim Furth, Stagnant Wages: What the Data Show, Backgrounder #3074 on Labor, The Heritage Foundation, October 26, 2015.


Stock Market Closing Prices


Dow Jones Industrial Average

Nasdaq Stock Market

S&P 500

December 31, 2014




December 31, 2015




Source: Dow Jones Close.


But these rose colored glasses/That I’m looking through/Show only the beauty/’Cause they hide all the truth – Lyrics by John Conlee

To say that job creation in 2014-15 has been the best since the late 1990s is misleading and not only because making that statement implies that job growth is now the same as it was in the late 1990s.   It sidesteps an important and related issue: the loss of wealth in American households.

Fewer and fewer American families now have the wherewithal to live middle class lives and real wage growth, even if positive, is so modest that it will never restore the middle class prosperity Americans became used to in the post-WWII decades.

Yet, given the threats from global warming and the increasing flows of goods, information and people from place to place on this earth, we have to ask whether returning to the kind of prosperity that marked the 1960s in America is what we should expect or even want. Perhaps we should not expect it because the rest of the world now reaches into America enough to successfully demand a fairer (and therefore larger) share of the global pie. And, perhaps we should not want it because that way of affluence imposed an enormous cost in wealth and lives on most of the world’s peoples and, as we know so well now, is making the earth unfit for habitation.

Is there an alternative way of affluence? Yes, but we have to invent it.