We talked earlier about the new job numbers, which showed 2015 ending on a very strong note. But let’s also take a moment to add some context to the data.
Overall, the U.S. economy added 2.65 million jobs in 2015 last year, 2.55 million jobs in the private sector alone. Was the year as strong as 2014? Not quite, but it was close – and the back-to-back performance matters.
Even looking at 2015 in isolation, the year saw better job growth than in any year of the Bush/Cheney era – or the Bush/Quayle era, for that matter. But when 2015 is combined with 2014, we see a job market on a two-year hot streak unmatched since 1998 and 1999.
Not too shabby.
Of course, there’s a political angle to this that’s worth broader consideration. Congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates believe with absolute certainty that many of President Obama’s domestic policy accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act, higher taxes on the wealthy, Wall Street regulations, et al – are crushing the economy and stifling the American job market.
Indeed, voters are hearing from a large field of far-right White House hopefuls who insist, literally every day, that the only way to create jobs in this country is to do the exact opposite of what President Obama has done.
And yet, here we are, with over 3 million jobs created in 2014, 2.65 million jobs in 2015, and an unemployment rate that’s been cut from 10% to 5% in fairly short order.
Why Americans would feel an urgent need to dramatically change economic direction is entirely unclear.
I created the above chart showing job growth by year for the four most recent presidential administrations – the blue columns point to the two Democratic administrations (darker blue for overall job growth, lighter blue for private-sector-only growth), and the red columns point to the two Republican administrations (darker red for overall job growth, lighter red for private-sector-only growth).
Postscript: I should note that today’s job totals for December are preliminary and will be revised in the coming weeks. That said, these revisions are nearly always fairly modest – indeed, lately the revisions tend to point to increased, not decreased, totals – and will have little effect on the broader point.