The final pre-election employment figures were released yesterday. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported employment growth of 171K and an increase in the unemployment rate from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent. The employment figures were generally positive, and are indicative of a slowly recovering economy.
With this background in mind, we can now answer the question: how well did employment growth do over the course of Obama’s presidency? And, how does it compare to recent presidential administrations?
Starting first with the Jimmy Carter Administration; during the four years in which Jimmy Carter held office, employment expanded by about 10.3 million, or about 2.56 million jobs per year. By 21st Century standards, 2.56 million jobs per year would be incredibly robust. The 10.3 million jobs were not enough for the American public to keep Jimmy Carter around, opting for a more charismatic and less racist president in Ronald Reagan.
The decision to elect Ronald Reagan turned out to be a good one. Under Ronald Reagan’s watch, total employment expanded by 15.84 million, or about 1.9 million per year. The decline in average employment per year from the Carter Administration was the result of a recession in Ronald Reagan’s first three years. When excluding the recessionary years of the Ronald Reagan presidency, employment expanded by about 3.2 million per year.
After eight years of generally strong economic growth under a Republican Administration, the public opted to continue with the Republican Party, electing the elder George Bush over Michael Dukakis. Under the elder George Bush’s watch, the labor market expanded by about 2.28 million, or about 0.57 million per year. The below average employment growth largely caused the public to opt for a different administration, electing Bill Clinton in 1992.
As was the case with the Jimmu Carter Administration, switching parties after just four years turned out to be a good decision, at least when it comes to labor market conditions. Under the Bill Clinton Administration, employment grew steadily most of the eight years, with total employment growth of 22.76 million, or about 2.84 million per year.
Following the Bill Clinton years, the public opted for the younger Bush. Shortly after George W. Bush took office, the economy entered the 2001 recession. The recession resulted in an employment declined of about 2.6 million over the first two and a half years of the younger George W. Bush’s Administration. Following the recession, the economy grew rapidly, with employment growing by about 8.1 million from the recession’s trough to the economy’s peak in 2007. The economy then entered the housing induced recession, bringing the overall employment growth figures during the George W. Bush Administration down to 1.9 million over his eight years.
Following eight years of a Republican president, the voting public opted for the Democratic candidate, electing Barack Obama as the country’s 44th president. During the Barack Obama Administration’s time in office, employment deteriorated rapidly, with overall employment growth bottoming out at a decrease of 4.32 million in the early months of 2010. Since the bottom of the recession, employment has improved, with the overall employment growth under Barack Obama’s watch just recently surpassing the zero mark. On the whole, employment has grown by 194K since Barack Obama took office, or about 49K jobs per year.
So how does Barack Obama match up? Overall, pretty poor; when it comes to job growth, Barack Obama is the worst president since at least the 1970s. If history is any guide, Barack Obama is likely out of a job come January 2013.