Yglesias brushes aside a Heritage foundation chart showing that the Affordable Care Act was bad for jobs.

Clearly, though, no fair-minded person actually interested in the subject is going to be persuaded by this kind of nonsense. I think it’s really too bad that conservative institutions spend a fair amount of time and energy on projects whose only possible effect can be to mislead their own constituency.

Here is the chart he references.

You can see the trend in month-to-month growth both before and after the passage.

I am elated  to see Matt write a post like this because it PROVES and I mean proves, that despite my wife’s frequent protestations to the contrary, I am not the most intellectually detached blogger in the blogosphere.

For I – unlike Matt – see why this chart could be confusing to some fair minded people. And, I – unlike Matt – see the need to explain exactly why this chart is misleading.

Here goes:

Suppose that the pre-ACA trend had continued unabated. Then on top of the surprisingly strong job growth of April 2010 we would have kept accelerating at a rate of 67K jobs per month. At that rate we would currently be adding jobs at roughly 1.2M per month every month.

As you can see below, even when the economy is cooking it rarely cross 400K jobs per month.

FRED Graph

The absolute historical record is 1.1M in 1983 and that was the result of the resolution of strike against AT&T.

If you look at the chart then anyway you slice it the private sector job growth rate in April of 2010 was near its likely peak and so a slowdown in the rate of improvement was inevitable.

You could make the argument that one should have expected private sector growth to drift upwards into the high 300. However, that’s a much more subtle shift that’s going to be harder to attribute to the ACA.