WASHINGTON -- The latest jobs report contained a politically important fact for Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- America finally replaced the jobs lost from the "Bush economic policies," the House minority leader said Friday, blaming Republicans for the slow pace of recovery.
Pelosi's declaration came shortly after the Labor Department announced the U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March, in the latest sign of ongoing job growth too tepid to bring down the unemployment rate. But private payroll employment did pass a milestone Democrats wanted to commemorate.
"I have to note that today we have replaced all of the jobs lost under the Bush economic policies and recession that that took us into," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill. "It's taken this long to build back from that."
Pelosi was referring to the fact that private-sector payroll employment reached 116 million in March, beating its December 2007 peak of 115.9 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Great Recession started at the end of 2007 and officially ended halfway through 2009. Since then, growth has remained steady, but weak.
Check out this chart from BLS:
But just looking at private employment misses the bigger picture. At 137.9 million, overall employment (excluding agricultural workers) is still below its pre-recession level of 138.3 million thanks to government layoffs. Federal, state and local governments employed 535,000 fewer workers in March than in December 2007, thanks to budget cuts.
"Where we have not had as much job growth is in the public sector because of cuts in education, public safety and the rest. So that is a place where there still is a gap, and that is a reflection of the policy that is there," Pelosi said.
Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute, said the numbers may have political or psychological value, but not much else. There are still nearly 3 million more unemployed people than when the recession started.
"I cannot think of anything economically meaningful about passing the December 2007 employment level," Shierholz said.
Pelosi also blamed the GOP for stunts and obstruction that have hurt the economy.
"If we didn't have the shutdown of government, if we didn't have sequestration, all of those were deterrents to growth," Pelosi said, noting that the shutdown alone was blamed for $25 billion in lost economic activity. "We had to make up for that. So they take us further into the hole that we have to dig ourselves out of."
For his part, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared that Democrats were the problem because they would not pass the GOP's "jobs" bills, which aim to spur growth by cutting regulations.
“The House has passed dozens of bills that would help fuel economic growth by expanding all types of energy production, protecting families and small business from ObamaCare, improving education and job training, and more," Boehner said in a statement. "Senate Democrats have no excuse for standing in the way of these common-sense jobs measures, many of which passed with bipartisan support, and I urge them to act immediately.”
Pelosi and Democrats countered that they have policies that will more directly and immediately fuel growth, starting with raising the minimum wage.
"If we could do that, if we could extend unemployment benefits, we would immediately be injecting demand into the economy, creating jobs at a faster rate," Pelosi said.