Jobs created during U.S. presidential terms

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Politicians and pundits frequently refer to the ability of the President of the United States to "create jobs" in the U.S. during his or her term in office.[1] The numbers are most often seen during the election season or in regard to a President's economic legacy. The numbers typically used and most frequently cited by economists are total nonfarm payroll employment numbers as collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on a monthly and annual basis.


The job numbers are collected via a survey of thousands of businesses. The sample establishments are drawn from private nonfarm businesses such as factories, offices, and stores, as well as federal, state, and local government entities. Employees on nonfarm payrolls are those who received pay for any part of the reference pay period (which includes the 12th of the month), including persons on paid leave.

As of 2005, the sample includes about 160,000 businesses and government agencies covering approximately 400,000 individual worksites. These job counts are monthly estimates based on data provided by employers (adjusted annually to a near census of total jobs provided by mandatory unemployment insurance filings) and also reflect those with multiple employers who are counted with each employer.


U.S. Changes in Employment for Selected Time Periods

The exact usefulness of these numbers is debated. On the one hand, they include only nonfarm payroll employment, which excludes certain types of jobs, notably the self-employed. However, as a semi-balancing factor, they count one person with two jobs as two employed persons.

Additionally, for at least the first eight months of a President's term, he inherits a budget proposed and implemented by his predecessor (as well as an overall economy which may be in decline or recovery). The data in columns shown for September (in bold) correlate better with the federal fiscal year starting each October, showing the impact of a given president and resulting federal budget on the job count.

Moreover, according to the United States Constitution, the United States Congress is responsible for government spending and thus, regardless of Presidential advocacy, bears constitutional responsibility for such things as spending and tax policy that have enormous effects upon the economy. Furthermore, it is debatable how much effect any President realistically could have on a system as large, diverse, and complex as the U.S. economy. Nevertheless, the nonfarm payrolls number is the one most frequently used in the media and by economists, largely because the alternative (household survey numbers) is thought to drastically overestimate employment.

Another factor to consider is population growth, which provides opportunities for the creation of jobs, rendering these figures less impressive, or in the case of the already subpar, clearly insufficient.

The Heritage Foundation has pointed to Alan Greenspan's general economic optimism (in 2004) as support for household survey numbers over payroll numbers. However, the subsequent downturn, and Greenspan's admission of having been wrong, may have discredited that view.

Job creation by term[edit]

Numbers listed from 1941 and onward are BLS data[2] of jobs (in thousands), and are shown from the year beginning and ending each presidential term. The monthly statistics are quoted from January, as U.S. presidents take office at the end of that month.

U.S. president Party Term years Start jobs End jobs Created Ave annual increase
Harding/Coolidge R 1921–1925 25,000 ** 29,500 ** +4,500 ** +4.23% **
Calvin Coolidge R 1925–1929 29,500 ** 32,100 ** +2,600 ** +2.13% **
Herbert Hoover R 1929–1933 32,100 ** 25,700 ** -6,400 ** -5.41% **
Franklin Roosevelt D 1933–1937 25,700 ** 31,200 ** +5,500 ** +4.97% **
Franklin Roosevelt D 1937–1941 31,200 ** 34,480 ** +3,280 ** +2.53% **
Franklin Roosevelt D 1941–1945 34,480 41,903 +7,423 +5.00%
Roosevelt/Truman D 1945–1949 41,903 44,675 +2,772 +1.61%
Harry Truman D 1949–1953 44,675 50,145 +5,470 +2.93%
Dwight Eisenhower R 1953–1957 50,145 52,888 +2,743 +1.34%
Dwight Eisenhower R 1957–1961 52,888 53,683 +795 +0.37%
Kennedy/Johnson D 1961–1965 53,683 59,583 +5,900 +2.64%
Lyndon Johnson D 1965–1969 59,583 69,438 +9,855 +3.90%
Richard Nixon R 1969–1973 69,438 75,620 +6,182 +2.16%
Nixon/Ford R 1973–1977 75,620 80,692 +5,072 +1.64%
Jimmy Carter D 1977–1981 80,692 91,031 +10,339 +3.06%
Ronald Reagan R 1981–1985 91,031 96,353 +5,322 +1.43%
Ronald Reagan R 1985–1989 96,353 107,133 +10,780 +2.69%
George H. W. Bush R 1989–1993 107,133 109,726 +2,593 +0.60%
Bill Clinton D 1993–1997 109,725 121,233 +11,507 +2.52%
Bill Clinton D 1997–2001 121,231 132,466 +11,233 +2.24%
George W. Bush R 2001–2005 132,466 132,453 -13 -0.00%
George W. Bush R 2005–2009 132,502 133,631 +1,129 +0.21%
Barack Obama D 2009–2013 133,631 134,839 +1,208 +0.23%



For information on the United States public debt divided by Gross Domestic Product by Presidential term, see National Debt by U.S. presidential terms

Graphs and data[edit]

The Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) database contains the total nonfarm employment level. A graph with a simple download of data on jobs by month since the late 1930s is available here:

External links and references[edit]

  1. ^ NYT-Laura D'Andrea Tyson-Jobs Deficit, Investment Deficit, Fiscal Deficit-July 2011
  2. ^ Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Databases & Tools, Top Picks", Total Nonfarm Employment - Seasonally Adjusted