Patrick Lester

Patrick William Lester is a policy analyst at OMB Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based public
policy research and advocacy organization. He previously served on the staff of the Domestic Policy Council in the Clinton White House.

Recent Articles

Behind the Numbers: The End of Unemployment?

A higher percentage of Americans are working than at any time since World War II. But policy-makers could wreck a dawning era of high employment.

W hether our current, relatively low unemployment rates can be sustained without increasing inflation has been a point of contention among economists, financial market analysts, and policymakers. Arguments over trade-offs between unemployment and inflation, however, too quickly gloss over the causes of our falling unemployment. The cause seems relatively straightforward: a sustained upturn in the business cycle. But this simple explanation overlooks another potent factor: the rising rate of labor force participation. Compared to previous economic expansions, the economic growth of the last few years has actually been quite weak. During the previous two economic expansions, of 1975-1980 and 1982-1990, real economic growth averaged 4.3 percent and 3.6 percent per year, respectively. Real economic growth since the end of the last recession in early 1991, by contrast, has averaged an anemic 2.7 percent per year, even taking into account the recent economic surge. It seems improbable that...