A jobs record Obama can (and should) brag about

President Obama will deliver his farewell address tonight with a speech in Chicago, and it’s a safe bet he’ll mention his successes in turning the economy around, helping rescue the country from the Great Recession. It’s a shame, though, that his presentation probably won’t include charts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the final jobs report of the Obama era late last week, and it showed the United States added over 2.15 million jobs in 2016. That’s the sixth consecutive year in which the country has seen job growth over 2 million – a streak unseen since the late 1990s.

I created the above chart showing job growth by year for the four most recent presidential administrations – two Democratic and two Republican. 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).

It’s always tempting at the end of a presidency to compare various administrations’ records, but there’s some important context with Obama’s record: he inherited a global economic crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in the modern era. And yet, the president’s record on job creation – over 15 million jobs created during the last seven years – stacks up quite well, and easily surpasses the totals from recent GOP administrations.

The same is true of the unemployment rate.


The Washington Post noted the other day that going back to Eisenhower, there have been five Democratic administrations, and the unemployment rate went down during each of their tenures. There have been six Republican administrations over the same period, and the rate went up in five of the six. The exception was Reagan.

And even with Reagan, there’s an interesting historical tidbit. On the day the Republican icon was first inaugurated, the unemployment rate stood at 7.5%. It would spike at 10.8% a few years later, before eventually falling to 5.4% the day Reagan left office. Meanwhile, on the day Obama was first inaugurated, the unemployment rate stood at 7.8%. It would spike soon after at 10%, before eventually falling to its current 4.7%.

Donald Trump is convinced he’ll have a far better record on job creation than Obama. It’ll be tough to compare – Obama inherited a global crisis; Trump is inheriting the healthiest economy in nearly two decades – but it won’t be easy for the Republican amateur to put up numbers this good.


Barack Obama and Rachel Maddow Show Charts

A jobs record Obama can (and should) brag about