Romney, Obama, and Executive Job Records

This is one of the Goose/Gander Visualization Series.

Recently President Obama’s team has felt that attacking Romney’s jobs record in Massachusetts tests well in the sample group.

These attacks got me thinking about executive job records.  “Where” I asked myself  “would President Obama place in a ranking of US Presidents in terms of job creation?”

Job Gains By Presidential Tenure Medium

You can also download a larger version of the chart. I find it difficult to create visualizations that work well in both blog form and Facebook-sharing form. This was my attempt at a compromise.

Is this a fair comparison? Yes and no. Part of the Goose/Gander series is that I create a provocative visual and then explain in more details what is fair and isn’t fair about it.

This Isn’t Fair

President Obama hasn’t had a full term yet

This puts him at a distinct disadvantage to everyone else (except John F Kennedy) because he hasn’t had the same amount of time to grow jobs. However it also seems pretty obvious that he’s not going to get out of last place before January 2013. That would require 300K new jobs per month every month from now until then.

President Obama came into office in the middle of a recession

In fact, he came in the middle of a recession that was worse in terms of job loss than anything any other president in this chart had to deal with. Now, he did split those job losses about half-and-half with George W Bush, so it’s not as bad as it could have been for him.

Presidents only have a certain amount of control over job growth

Actually presidents (and executives in general) only have a certain amount of control over the economy, so this entire exercise is kind of tainted by that fact. But this is the part where we point out that Obama did start this by attacking Mitt Romney’s job record in a similar way.

This Is Fair

The data Is Unassailable

I’m using the Employment table from the BLS A Tables. This is not the one that most Obama proponents prefer to use. They prefer using the BLS B Tables because they give numbers that are kinder to Obama. But the B Tables undercount employment (they only count payrolls) and everyone knows this.

I counted January-January (or whenever the president left office) for each president. I did this not because it was particularly fair but because I wanted to match how Obama has assigned himself and Romney jobs responsibility. I’m following his lead to show that, if we take him at his word, he doesn’t stand up to his own standard.

If we’re going to play the presidential job visuals game…

… this is a totally fair visual to keep in mind. Depending on the metric, Obama talks about jobs in different ways. When talking raw numbers, he likes to talk about the “last 22 months” or however gets us to the low point in the recession. When talking about month-to-month change, he likes to talk about when he came into office which was the worst point of job loss in the recession, so everything else looks good in comparison.

Fairly or unfairly, Presidents and jobs are commonly linked. It’s only fair to give a proper representation of that information.

105 comments

  1. Kevin Weinrich says:

    So where is the disconnect between Obama saying he’s created 4.3 M jobs, and you saying he’s create 0.1? That’s huge. Is it the BLS A vs. B? But you say Obama’s folks use B, and B “undercount”s employment. If it undercounts, wouldn’t his total be lower than reality? Was that a typo?

    I appreciate you taking the time to come up w/ these graphics, if I can just understand them.

    • A Guy says:

      I’m not sure of the difference as I’m not sure where the 4.3 came from, but if I were on Team Obama and trying to come up with the most generous number possible, I’d do two things differently from what’s been done here:

      1) Timing. Rather than go from Jan ’09, I’d go a few months deeper into 2009 and find the absolute bottom for jobs, and pick my starting point there.

      2) Net v. Gross. The 0.1 number doesn’t look at additions or subtractions in jobs. Rather it simply looks at how many total jobs existed at two points in time and compares those two numbers. If I were Team O, I’d look at the number of new jobs while ignoring the ones that disappeared during the same time. For example, perhaps we added 4.3 new jobs at the same time we lost 4.2, yield a net number of 0.1.

      We can argue over methodology, but part of this exercise is to come up with a number attacking Obama using the EXACT SAME methodology that he’s using to attack Romney. Regardless of which calculation you think is more accurate/appropriate, it’s hard to argue that the answer should be different depending on which candidate we’re talking about.

      • Will Malven says:

        When Obama’s advocates cite jobs created these days, they are generally speaking of the 27 months since that nadir of jobs in 2009. It’s a very creative means of lying.

        The economy shed about 5 million jobs in this eternal recession/downturn and Obama and the Democrats have only created their claimed 4.3 million new jobs, then they remain about half-a-million in the hole. Apparently the numbers you are using yield different, but similar results.

        I’m not going to argue with you . . . you’ve done the work, I’ve only read it.

        Great analysis, wish I had seen it sooner.

        • Middle Molly says:

          Why is that lying? Did you really think that Obama would be so great that he would immediately turn around a rapidly declining economy and start adding jobs from Day 1? After the recession of 2001 ended, it took 21 months for us to start adding jobs. After the much deeper recession of 2007 ended, it took 8 months to start adding jobs.

          Using the number of people employed, as the author does on this graph, is a bit dishonest. Jobs numbers are used because they are more accurate than numbers of people employed, which is self-reported. “Employment” according to the A tables includes people who mow grass for a neighbor a few hours a week while they wait for something better to do.

          They number of people employed is certainly a useful measure, but it also tends to be much more volatile than the jobs numbers and the seasonal adjustments to the A tables often seem a bit hinky to me.

          Also, the economy lost a whopping 8.8 million jobs (not people employed) in this recession, 4.5 million of them before Obama stepped one foot into the White House, another 2.2 million before April 12th. I have no idea where you had the idea that we ONLY lost 5 million jobs. It was much, much worse.

      • Middle Molly says:

        1. You are right about the timing. As we were losing 800,000 jobs a month right as Obama took office, do you think that the new Prez would want to claim those losses which he had nothing to do with? Don’t you think the McCain/despicable P woman would have done the same thing if they had been elected?

        We bottomed out in terms of jobs in February 2010. We bottomed out in terms of employment in December 2009.

        2. I’m not sure what you mean by “net/gross”. I use “gross” to represent an absolute number of people laid off or people hired, such as reported in the weekly unemployment claims reports. I use “net” to represent a number after all additions and subtractions have been made. The monthly jobs numbers are net number.

        As I said, the jobs numbers are net numbers, representing jobs added after all jobs have been subtracted or vice verse. We had more jobs (or people employed) added than jobs (or people employed) lost. When Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, 142,187,000 people said they were employed (in seasonally adjusted numbers). In May 2012, when the above was written, 142,287,000 claimed that they were employed. That’s an increase of 100,000 people working. Remember that we went down to only 137,968,000 people working in December 2009.

        There is a big difference between numbers in Mass under Mitt and numbers for Obama: Mitt took office during a time of national recovery after a much lighter recession (In the 2001 recession, we lost about .4% of our GDP; in the 2007-2009 recession, we lost over 5% of our GDP. We were out of recession and starting recovery when Mitt won Mass, and we were still in recession when Obama took office.

        Despite the recovery, the unemployment rate for Mass under Mitt, usually quite a bit below that of the U.S. as a whole, jumped up to equal and above that of the U.S. as a whole. After Mitt left office, it fell back to its usual spot below the unemployment rate of the U.S. as a whole, where it remained throughout the economic downturn.

        So.. if employment is a concern, you need to look at Mass under Mitt. Not a particularly pretty sight.

      • Oliver Dreams says:

        Obama has created more private sector jobs. Bush created more public sector jobs. Republican administrations across the nation have been firing teachers and other public employees like crazy, so that offsets Obama’s gains.

    • JoshINHB says:

      Obama’s 4.3million number is from the bottom of the recession – sept 2010 – 18 months after his inauguration.

    • Bill says:

      If you count from the very lowest job numbers- he’s made the 4.3M. However, the job count hit a low down roughly 4M from his inauguration- so he’s made a net .1….

    • cwxj415 says:

      Uh, Kevin: Do you understand the meaning of the word “net”?

    • Mark says:

      Because he only has netted 300k jobs. He lost 4 million since he’s started but those were gained back since. So that’s why they say 4.3 but really it’s only 300k. And of the 300k, they say they’re not the same jobs that returned.

      • Middle Molly says:

        “They say they are not the same jobs that returned”.. Can you explain that statement?

        If you mean they are NET jobs; the number of jobs after all job losses are subtracted from all growth, you would be correct.

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  4. JeffC says:

    Kevin,

    Obama only counts jobs from the bottom of the recession … he ignores the jobs lost under his watch prior to that …

    The BLS reports the actual, unadjusted number of employed people every month …

    Jan 2009 – 131,555,000

    Jan 2012 – 130,297,000

  5. DANEgerus says:

    Clinton repeated vetoed R congress and rode on Reagan’s coat tails.

    D congress took over in 2006 and the current recession started when? Oh yeah… with them.

    • Jason says:

      Actually, George HW Bush rode in on on Reagan’s coattails, and his economy was pretty weak.

    • Frank Knight says:

      by that adventurous logic, Saint Ronald rode on Carter’s

      • MontyWa says:

        Yes, that’s why he started with such a dismal situation. It’s only because he was so awesome that it turned around so well. Unlike the current occupant of the White House.

        • MontyWa says:

          To be fair, though, that probably gave Ronnie more room to grow, starting from such a low point.

        • f4jok says:

          ‘it turned around so well’?..are you talking about Ronnie Reagan, the Prez?..I’ll help you remember the following most people have forgotten about him……
          1) unemployment hit 10.8 per cent on his watch
          2) he actually INCREASED the size of the federal gov’t
          3) he gave blanket amnesty to THREE MILLION aliens
          4) he raised taxes ELEVEN times
          5) he TRIPLED the national debt
          6) he gave the wealthy so much in tax cuts he DOUBLED the payroll tax..know why?..he was trying to cover those tax cuts..didn’t work, so…
          7) he ‘borrowed’ from the Social Security Trust Fund(not to be touched)..know how?….
          8) he listened to his economic ‘advisor’ Alan Greenspan..he moved the Trust Fund from the General Welfare Fund to the General REVENUE Fund trying to cover his wealthy tax cuts..again, it didn’t work.

          …it took a Democratic President to ‘neutralize’ those debits….and so, along comes another Republican…and if you thought ’20 mule team’ Ronnie was less than you thought, wait’ll I get going on Boy George.

    • Middle Molly says:

      Actually, the housing bubble had already burst in summer/fall 2006. Housing starts and jobs in some sectors, like construction, had already peaked. There were two reasons the Dems won back Congress in 2006: 1. The unending wars; 2. The burst of the housing bubble and economic storm clouds on the horizon. Many pundits were saying we were heading into a steep recession in 2006, before the election.

  6. Scott says:

    How does the % figure in when talking about the job gains? For example, the 8.2% figure when referring to the 0.1 Million?

  7. Scott says:

    Disregard my last – saw the answer.

  8. Hepcat says:

    Love to see the numbers for employed as a percentage of employable workers.

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  12. There is a problem with including hard numbers – ex. 16.7 million. These population is not a fixed number. Look at the two top boxes.

    Reagan has 16.7 million resulting in 5.4% and Clinton has 18.7 million resulting in 4.2%. Reagan’s comparative lower count has a higher percentage. Take the hard number counts out – they confuse the infographic.

  13. Ooops correction on my last comment. Noticed just now that the percent numbers are unemployment, but first point still stands. Hard numbering of jobs has no meaning over the time span of the infograph

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  16. leelu says:

    Can you tell us *why* “Hard numbering of jobs has no meaning over the time span of the infograph”

    Thanks!

  17. Jordan G says:

    Comparing the results of a two term president with the results of single term presidents is apples to oranges. Each box should only present one term; so two term presidents should be split up with their associated years labeled. Otherwise, you occlude important context–for example, Bush’s performance during his second term (when the recession arguably began) may not look as good as his first (or maybe it will look even better–I really don’t know). As it stands know however, you are not comparing similar units.

    In any event, I do agree with a central point you made. If Obama suggests his job creating performance is better than Romney’s then he invites a critical view of his own performance.

    • tony c says:

      so can you compare the one or less term presidents? george hw bush one term.. ford less than one term… carter one term… jfk less than one term… can you compare those presidents? dont throw the baby out with the bath water… this goes back to 48 you can use your own brain to decide whether the two termers are fair or not or in the basis of nixon one term and 9 months…

      this is a comparison of all presidents since 48 including two term presidents, slightly over 1 term president 1 term presidents and under one term presidents in the case of jfk and ford.

      its a well rounded comparison through all lengths of office…

  18. Lee Shelton says:

    Another helpful stat would be what percentage of jobs created were government jobs.

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  24. Joe C. says:

    Obama inherited a recovery not a recession. Recovery started 4 1/2 mos. After taking office before any of his policies took effect. Then his policies stepped on the neck of the recovery, and we’ve been languishing on theto precipise of depression and bankruptcy ever since.

  25. Eric says:

    Is there any rhyme/reason to the box layout regarding vertical and/or horizontal position?

    I ask because higher up seems to imply better performance. But if so, I don’t understand why Carter w/ 10mil growth @ 7.5% is lower than GHWB w/ only 2.9mil growth but still at same 7.5%.

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  27. buddyglass says:

    I’d like to see the same visualization except using the percentage difference between end-of-term employment and the lowest employment level reached during that term. This would somewhat mitigate the circumstantial effects of business cycles, rising population and the advantage of having served two terms instead of one.

  28. John says:

    Would be interesting to see these numbers compared with other Presidents that were in office when the country was in a depressions, like Hoover and Roosevelt. I think then we could compare apples to apples, with the picture as it is we can see comparisons with some Presidents that have undergone recessions or downturns, but not with Presidents that have been in office during a great depression.

  29. Tyler says:

    Ouch. As an Obama supporter, that data presentation is pretty brutal. If someone from the Rmoney campaign isn’t on it, they should be.

    However, comparing 8-year presidencies (Reagan, Clinton) to 2 or 3-year presidencies (Ford, Kennedy) is a little unfair. If you presented the infographic data in the form of a “per month job creation”, that would make for a fairer measurement across presidencies, since some presidencies are much, much shorter than others.

    Then Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter come out quite well:
    Carter: 10 million over 48 months: about 208,000 jobs per month
    Clinton: 18.7 million over 96 months: about 195,000 jobs per month
    Reagan: 16.7 million over 96 months: about 174,000 jobs per month
    Ford: 2.9 million over 17 months: about 170,000 jobs per month

    And though Eisenhower and WBush don’t come out so well, Obama ends up with — essentially — a 0 per month figure.
    WBush: 4.4 million over 96 months: about 46,000 jobs per month
    Eisenhower: 4.2 million over 96 months: about 44,000 jobs per month
    Obama: 0.1 million over 42 months: 238 jobs per month.

    Ouch. It would make for a similarly damaging infographic, AND it would provide a fairer comparison metric across presidencies. It does ignore the circumstances under which Obama took office (item #2 in the “unfair” list) it would essentially remove item #1 in that list from consideration.

  30. [...] the chart prepared by Political Math.  On the two measures that matter the most — job creation and unemployment — Obama is [...]

  31. TallDave says:

    Can you imagine if Bush had campaigned in 2004 on the “jobs created since the bottom of the recession” number? He would have been roasted alive by the MSM.

  32. Blaze says:

    So you are trying to tell us that Obama has only created 100,000 jobs? Balderdash.

    • elkh1 says:

      No, Obama created no jobs. None of the presidents did. The graph says jobs gained during the president’s tenure. It is stupid to believe Obama or any presidents “created” jobs. Their policies, taxes and regulations, affect how many jobs are gained or lost.

      Btw, only private sector jobs create economic values, govt jobs don’t. That is why the bigger the govt., the bigger the drag on the economy.

      Obama, however, certainly destroyed jobs. E.g. He redistributed $535 million of taxpayers money to support his crony Kaiser’s Solyndra, which closed down. He redistributed billions of our money to GM which signed a contract to pay a Brit soccer team $600 million of our money to put “Chervolet” on their jerseys. Those money, if he was serious, could be used to revamp our infrastructure to “create” jobs.

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  34. elkh1 says:

    Seems an unemployment rate of 7.5% guarantees a change of party.

  35. [...] here’s an interesting idea, courtesy of the whizkid at Political Math: using Bureaus Of Labor Statistics figures, where does President Obama rank among modern U.S. [...]

  36. Grafight says:

    I Supported Clinton and Obama but now I know the republican candidate personally. I’m aware of his integrity and compassion first hand.

    So I see all these deliberate lies and attacks (with the sterling exception of Clinton, who defended Mitt’s record), all these distortions, and I think: “I was wrong about many of these Democrats and what they stand for”.

    Add to that the sore disappointment Obama has been. Tweak it all you want for accuracy, the graphic is clear: Obama has the worst jobs record of any president since WWII. And he thinks he’s one of the 4 greatest Presidents in History? He spends most of his time campaigning, fund-raising and playing golf! He’s our President in a time of crisis, worst unemployment ever and overseas turmoil. His best campaign strategy, his best fund-raising tool should be to sit down and do the damn job we hired him to do!

  37. [...] here’s an interesting idea, courtesy of the whizkid at Political Math: using Bureaus Of Labor Statistics figures, where does President Obama rank among modern U.S. [...]

  38. Matt W says:

    Looks like Veronica de Rugy liked your graph. (http://mercatus.org/publication/how-many-jobs-gained-during-presidential-tenure) Great minds must think pretty similarly though; from her post one might believe she arrived at the idea to create her graph totally independently.

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  40. Noah says:

    Many of us over at the Rutherford Lawson blog are interested in these job numbers. The host has dismissed out of hand these numbers claiming you have basically falsified your data. If you should have any desire many of us would love nothing better than to hear an explanation of these numbers. https://rutherfordl.wordpress.com/

    I just found your site a few days ago and so far I am a big fan. Thanks for taking the time to throw this all together.

    • Unfortunately Noah has mischaracterized my position. I did not say you falsified the data since the data does come from reliable BLS charts.

      What I said was that your explanation of your methodology was flawed and therefore either you made a mistake in your explanation or you were simply full of baloney.

      After examining the explanation of the BLS charts I have come to the conclusion that you wrote “undercount” in your analysis when you meant to write “overcount”.

      If that is the case, you don’t owe me any further explanation.

    • Specifically, I wrote the following most recently in the blog discussion of your analysis on my web site:

      The one thing I caught here that I missed before is that Table B potentially double counts people if they worked for two different companies in the survey period.

      This makes the following comment by PolMath totally nonsensical:

      “I’m using the Employment table from the BLS A Tables. This is not the one that most Obama proponents prefer to use. They prefer using the BLS B Tables because they give numbers that are kinder to Obama. But the B Tables UNDERCOUNT employment (they only count payrolls) and everyone knows this.” Emphasis mine.

      He’s right about why Obama would like Table B because it OVERCOUNTS employment, not undercounts employment as he wrote in his analysis.

      I think we’ve settled the matter. PolMath using Table A does hurt Obama’s numbers and is probably a more valid approach that avoids the potential dups in Table B. PolMath’s only problem is he wrote the wrong thing when he described his methodology.

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  42. [...] out this graph from Political Math — it uses info from the Bureau of Labor statistics to compare how many jobs presidents since [...]

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  47. Kyle Becker says:

    Dear politicalmath, PLEASE comment at IJ Review or via email on why George W. Bush’s average unemployment rate isn’t 5.3%, as I’ve seen reported in dozens of places.

    http://www.ijreview.com/2012/09/15381-the-chart-obamas-employment-record-in-one-glance/

    Thanks much, and keep up the great work.

    • Middle Molly says:

      Average unemployment rates over a period of years are somewhat meaningless, don’t you think? Even annual average unemployment rates are somewhat meaningless if you are in a period of rapid economic change.

  48. [...] and Democratic spin-doctors obviously will spit out their talking points, but here’s a visual put together by Political Math that trumps all the political maneuvering. If you’re wondering where Obama is, look at the lower [...]

  49. Merlyn Hall says:

    Interesting … Just noticed both Bushes left office with unemployment at 7.5% (according to this chart.) That means that’s the starting point for Clinton and Obama, yet Clinton is the biggest job creator and Obama is the worst. Clinton was 100 times better, which certainly can’t be made up by just being in there 2x longer. Is this a fair comparison to make?

    • Middle Molly says:

      Unemployment was already up to 7.8% in adjusted numbers when Bush left office/Obama took office. I’d like to know where the author came up with the 7.5% number.

      Unemployment numbers, jobs numbers and rates are based on surveys taken the week the contains the 12th day of the month. As a result, all jobs numbers, numbers of people employed, the unemployment rate, etc., for January 2009 belong in the Bush column. The unemployment rate was 7.8% adjusted, 8.5% unadjusted in January 2009.

      Now, the unemployment rate for February 2009, which includes layoffs from the week of January 12th through the week of January 20th, days which still fell in the Bush term, jumped up to 8.3%.

      The unemployment rate when Bush I left office was 7.3% (I’m using the BLS historical table LNS14000000 and I don’t know where the author is getting these numbers.) Big difference between the economies that Clinton inherited and Obama inherited. Isn’t that obvious?

      The unemployment rate that Clinton inherited was declining, and had reached a peak in July 1992. The unemployment rate that Obama inherited was rising, had been rising since late 2006/early 2007, and was rising with a bullet by the time Obama took office.

      Did you really think that Obama was so great that he was going to stop the absolute free fall and start adding jobs on January 21st?

      The U.S. economy is like a big battleship.. they don’t turn around on a dime.

  50. Dan says:

    Can you refresh this through August… or wait until the end of September?

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  52. EUGENE MCCAIN says:

    The graph is real and helpful. The argument, pro or con toward Obama lies in this: Is he responsible for the almost 4 million jobs lost in the first year of his Presidency, or is Bush. We all know that the budgets are always done a year in advance. So, in reality, the graph would be better if it showed job growth from one year after each President took office and included for one year after they left. This would then show the last Bush having a horrible second term. And Obama having a healthy first term. I think this is more accurate and more truthful and can be done comparing each President on the same basis.

  53. Lady Patriot says:

    Thank you for this great article. I used your graphic on my blog, http://www.ladypatriotus.blogspot.com. I tire of the Obama cult preaching of the great things Obama has done with job creation and the economy. Granted, Obama did come into a mess, but he has also left us with many pathetically failed policies. What the cult members see is his policies, not that they failed miserably.

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    things in mind because youre going to use them to make her like
    you.

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