The Obama Recovery and the direction of our economy

Alright, enough debate already.  Conservatives and Republicans have been taking advantage of the poor economy to paint President Obama and Democrats - well, really, government - as the problem.  When this country is hurting economically so much, it's easy to forget that this President's team and Democrats in Congress staved off a second great depression.  It's easy to get mad.  But really, let's look at some economic indicators and see if the President and Democrats are moving us in the right director or the wrong direction.

First, the most commonly used (and however imperfect) measure of economic performance, GDP growth.  Barack Obama took office with the national Gross domestic product declining at 5.4% annual rate.  Like I said, our economy was falling off a cliff and someone had to break the fall and start to push it back up.  In the last quarter of 2009, our economy grew at a 6.4% rate, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Here's what the Obama recovery looks like in terms of GDP:

GDP growth Q4 2008 to Q4 2009

Next, the famous job growth "bikini graph" (or the up-side down bell curve) When President Obama took office, the economy was losing nearly 750,000 jobs a month. Last month, the economy added 162,000 new jobs. Is that enough? Absolutely not. But breaking that fall and pushing back up the slope is nothing to sneeze at. Here is what the Bush and Obama job numbers look like since the beginning of this recession - From December 2007 to March of 2010 (source: Office of the Speaker):

jobs lost or gained from 12-07 to 3-10

The bell curve in the Obama recovery is common in other numbers as well. The job numbers warrant a little bit of a deeper look. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides us the numbers of how mass layoffs and initial (new) unemployment claims tracked through the recession and over the last year and a quarter. First, let's look at the mass layoffs:

Mass Layoffs 12-07 to 2-10

As you can see, the mass layoff numbers now are just about the same as they were right before the recession started in December. In fact the number of notices in December 2007 and February 2010 were almost identical: December 2007 saw 1,569 notices of mass layoffs, February 2010 saw 1,570 (see BLS data sheet linked above). The numbers rose steadily until about March of 2009, reaching almost 3,000 mass layoff notices, and then continued on an overall pattern of coming back down the February levels.

The new unemployment claimed tracked the same way, peaking a little later, in May of 2009. In February of 2010, the initial unemployment claims fell to about 155,000, about the same as December of 2007. Here's how they track:

Initial Unemployment claims 12-07 to 2-10

The numbers are still high, but thanks to the Obama recovery, they are falling.

We have now covered GDP growth as well as unemployment numbers. Another major indicator is the stock market. Throughout the Bush recession and into the Obama recovery, the stock market, like the job market, tracks like an up-side-down bell curve (another "bikini graph") if you will. Dow is hovering around 11,000 as we speak, and all three major stock indicators (Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500) are on a growth trajectory. So here is the stock market recovery (baseline is May of 2008, Credit: Yahoo Finance):

Stock market in recession

And finally, we are a consumer economy, so consumer confidence is an important indicator of both current and future economic growth. The Rasmussen Consumer Confidence index stood at 78.4 last month, the second highest since January of 2009. Here's how consumer confidence has looked like (data from the Rasmussen index) like since President Obama has taken office:

Consumer confidence under Obama (until March 2010)

In every indication, the economy is improving. Job losses have slowed and our economy has started creating jobs. New unemployment claims and mass layoff notices are down. GDP has started growing substantially. The stock market (that's your retirement accounts) is rising. Consumer confidence is coming back. Slowly but surely, the numbers tell a definite story: our economy is moving in the right direction, thanks to the Obama recovery.

Note: Unless otherwise credited, I prepared the graphs myself.  'Source' generally refers to source of data.