In his November 6 announcement that he would not allow the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, President Barack Obama touted employment figures that were released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics are the principal reason for his decision. At the White House, were he was flanked by Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama claimed that the pipeline would not add jobs to the economy, and that it would not mean lower prices for gasoline. In his spiel, Obama said:
“First: The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy. So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it. If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan that, in the short term, could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year as the pipeline would, and in the long run would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come.”
Touting the alleged job creation by his administration, Obama added:
“Our businesses created 268,000 new jobs last month. They’ve created 13.5 million new jobs over the past 68 straight months -- the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. This Congress should pass a serious infrastructure plan, and keep those jobs coming. That would make a difference. The pipeline would not have made a serious impact on those numbers and on the American people’s prospects for the future.”
Besides his predictable critics among Republicans, such as Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, there others who were dismayed by Obama’s decision. For example, the principal U.S. labor union for construction workers accused the president of throwing them “under the bus” by rejecting the Keystone XL oil pipeline. In a statement, Terry O’Sullivan – the general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) – said “We are dismayed and disgusted that the President has once again thrown the members of LIUNA, and other hard-working, blue-collar workers under the bus of his vaunted ‘legacy,’ while doing little or nothing to make a real difference in global climate change.” O’Sullivan said of Obama: “His actions are shameful.”
The LIUNA statement cited a State Department report that Keystone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions when compared with oil transportation by railroad. “But facts apparently mean as little to the president as the construction jobs he repeatedly derided as insignificant because they are ‘temporary,’ ” O’Sullivan said. “Ironically, the very temporary nature of the president’s own job seems to be fueling a legacy of doing permanent harm to middle- and working class families.”
The employment statistics coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics are a mixed bag. Importantly, the number of Obama’s fellow Americans who are not in the labor force in October totaled 94,513,000 -- a slight improvement from the 94,610,000 not in the labor force in September. The number of Americans not in the labor force includes retirees. However, participation rate nonetheless remains at its lowest point in 38 years. Only 62.4 percent of the civilian non-institutional population is either holding a job or actively seeking one. The BLS reported that the U.S. added 271,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate dropped to 5.0 percent in October from September's 5.1 percent.
According to the BLS, in September, America’s civilian noninstitutional population, consisting of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 251,541,000. Of those, 157,028,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one. The 157,028,000 who participated in the labor force equaled only 62.4 percent of the 251,541,000 civilian noninstitutional population. The last time the labor force participation was as low as 62.4 percent was in October 1977.
Among major worker groups, the BLS found the unemployment rates for all adult men (4.7 percent), all adult women (4.5 percent), and all teenagers (15.9 percent). When defined along racial/ethnic lines, the numbers were as follows: whites (4.4 percent), blacks (9.2 percent), Asians (3.5 percent), and Hispanics (6.3 percent) showed little or no change in October.