Updated: The Pelosi Graph -– Alright Already

Just because people apparently won’t stop sending it to me unless I post it, here is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s graph of accelerating job losses in the U.S.


It’s pretty, and I like the shadowing effect, but it’s worth reminding yourself that the thing is seriously flawed.

  1. The graph is in absolute terms, not percentage terms. In a growing workforce, that is misleading. Admittedly the percentage losses this time around are still higher than in the last two recessions, but it’s not as bad as the above figures make it out.
  2. Measuring the current recession against the last two is highly selective. What’s so special about 1990 and 2001? Matter of fact, both were fairly moderate recessions, certainly nothing like the 1982 recession, for example. Better yet, why not compare against all recessions, or a distribution of same?

Feel free to add more.

Now, I’m not dismissing the idea that this downturn is bad. It is. And I’m wearing out readers saying that I think the closest parallel is the Depression. But trying to make the point via inappropriate graphs just panders to those who think the Obama administration is engaged in economic fear-mongering.

[Update] Justin Fox at Time has done a useful comparison graph: