The Obama Legacy in Context: Job Growth

Image of President Obama talking about his legacy in a speech at the White House.

The following is an opinion editorial and not reflective of’s views.

Over the last few weeks, President Barack Obama has energetically promoted the legacy of his outgoing administration. He and his staff have dedicated much of their legacy talk time to reminding the American people about Obama’s economic policy success and how he saved the nation from ruin. The more they do this, the more I can’t help but compare them to a public relations firm engaged in damage control.

You see, when really looking at the job numbers, cracks begin to show in the Obama “legacy.” Once the crack shows, it’s hard to see the administration’s claims as anything but tongue in cheek.

A Pattern of Behavior

Before launching into the most recent job numbers, it’s important to note that the Obama administration has a history of making claims without context. The most blatant example of such conduct is seen in his final State of the Union.

During the State of the Union, Obama claimed that he created “more than 14 million new jobs.” However, the net gain in total employment since he first took office up to the State of the Union was actually just under 9.3 million. Obama omitted the more than 4 million jobs lost during his first 13 months in office. He also ignored losses of state and local government jobs. So where was Obama getting this 14 million number from? If we take a look at private sector jobs at the time of the State of the Union in December, that gain indeed stood at 14.1 million. But only if you start counting from February 2010, when job losses hit bottom.

During the same State of the Union, he also referred to “an unemployment rate cut in half.” But when looked at in context, the jobless rate when he took office was 7.8 percent, and it has dropped to 5 percent as of December 2015. The rate is only half if measured from the worst point of his presidency, which was the 10 percent rate in October 2009.

So, with this behavioral trend of the administration in mind, let’s look at the most recent job numbers to see just what kind of “legacy” Obama is leaving behind.

More People Than Jobs

If we look at the numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 11 million jobs were created starting from January 2009 to January 2017. The Obama administration loves to cite this statistic time and time again as an indicator of the administration’s success in growing American jobs. To their credit, they were responsible for that number of jobs being grown.

Now lets compare this to the amount of people that came of working age from 2009 to 2016. In 2009, the working age population was 306,771,529. This number grew to 323,127,513 by 2016. Based on these numbers, we can see that the working population grew by 16,355,984 in the same span of time that Obama created 11 million jobs.

Apply a bit of subtraction to these numbers, and we see that we’re short on jobs by over 5 million. That means that there are over 5 million people right now who cannot get a job because there is in a very literal sense no job available for them.

Reagan Reigns Supreme

Another claim by the Obama administration is that they outperformed the Reagan administration in job creation. Remember those population statistics we just looked at? Well, those same statistics prove that Obama did not outperform Reagan in job creation.

When the job market exploded after bottoming out in December 1982, the population grew by 12.4 million people during the Reagan recovery. However, the number of jobs sky rocketed by 18.4 million.

This strong job growth pulled people back into the job market from its pre-Reagan low, causing the labor force participation rate (which started out lower under Reagan than Obama) to launch upward. You can see this trend for your self by visiting the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website here. Be sure to select the appropriate years (1982-1988) at the top right of the page.

Now let’s look at Obama’s numbers again. What do we see? Oh right, there’s still 5 million more people than there are jobs available.

Manufacturing Woes

The Obama administration is also keen to claim their role in manufacturing job growth. But how do their claims stack up against the numbers? Back in November, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted that 805,000 manufacturing jobs were created since Obama took office. That’s true…if you only start counting from the rock-bottom job month that was February 2010.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent verified reports, manufacturing employment was at 12,258,000 in October 2016. So, when you count the numbers starting from when Obama actually took the presidency in January 2009, there is a net loss of 303,000 manufacturing jobs.

Context Matters

To his credit, Obama was met with success in some regards to his economic policy. Jobs were created and overall salaries did tick up a bit. This is just simple fact.

However,  the exaggerated boasting of the administration’s economic policies are simply that; exaggerations. Why? Because their claims are based on facts without providing proper context. As you’ve seen in this article, when you look at the numbers in the context of other important national statistics, Obama begins to lose ground on his job growth claims.

  • Adaj Parr

    The comparison you stated on jobs and the total population is not accurate. You failed to mention the jobs lost at the end of the Bush administration and the recovery during Obama administration. Just getting back to normal, the 11 million job you cited, getting back to even before adding job is the number you failed to mention. Your report is extremely bias and subjective.

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