The Washington Post’s Outlook section last week declared that President Obama had the “worst year in Washington,” dissecting the trifecta of election defeat, foreign policy missteps and falling popularity. But if judged by the standards that actually affect the lives the most Americans – the state of the economy and the state of their pocketbooks – 2014 was perhaps the best year of Obama’s presidency. It wasn’t all good by any means, and some of the biggest problems saw little improvement, such as the number of part-time workers who would prefer full-time work and those who have given up entirely. But many of the indicators are finally pointing strongly in the right direction.
2.1 percent – The increase in nonfarm private sector wages over the past year, the best year since 1999 when the economy was firing on all cylinders. November’s gain of 0.4 percent was nearly double the anticipated increase.
11.3 percent – The number of Americans without health insurance reached the lowest percentage of Americans in fifty years, and is still falling.
$2.45 – the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States on December 19th, a 23 percent decline from a year ago. Studies suggest that if prices stay low, it will be the equivalent of a $1 trillion (or more) stimulus for the global economy.
98.1 – The index measure of Small Business Confidence reached its highest level since February 2007, with more companies expecting rising sales and making plans to hire.
2.65 million – The number of jobs created through November 0f 2014. Assuming the job market doesn’t soften in December, that will be the biggest single year of job growth since 1999.
Better, but Not Enough:
1.2 million – The decrease in number of long term unemployed (those out of work for more than 6 months). But there are still 2.8 million long-term unemployed, which is still far higher than any time in the post-war era.
6.9 million – the number who are still working part-time only because because they cannot find full-time employment.
698,000 – number of discouraged workers (persons who are not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them) in November 2014, basically unchanged from a year before.
286 – number of bills passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, the second lowest number in history.
51 –Number of those bills signed into law on December 18th alone
56 – Number of laws passed in the 113th Congress that do nothing other than rename federal buildings, roads, or bridges (including 38 post offices)