U.S. Employment Growth During Different Presidencies

September 24, 2008

The United States has had nine presidents since 1961.  Five were Republican and occupied the White House for 27.6 years.  The four Democrats were president for a total of 20 years.  The 7.6-year difference represents the presidency of George W. Bush, so for the forty years from January 1961 to January 2001, control of the executive branch of government was evenly shared.  In those 40 years, employment expanded 2.9% per annum when the president was a Democrat and at a 1.7% annualized rate when he was a Republican.

The most startling finding when examining employment growth during each of the nine presidencies is that the four fastest rankings belonged to the four Democrats, and the five slowest rankings were associated with Republicans.  In other words, jobs grew more slowly for each of the Republicans than for any of the Democrats.  The quickest annualized growth in jobs, 3.8%, occurred in the Johnson years, followed by 3.1% per annum under Carter, 2.4% per annum for the eight Clinton years and 2.3% during the Kennedy administration.  Among the Republicans, jobs expanded most quickly, 2.2% annualized, when Nixon was president followed by 2.1% per annum under Reagan.  The rate of employment growth then drops appreciably to 1.1% per annum during the Ford administration, 0.6% per annum for the four years when Bush the senior was president, and 0.5% per annum in the 7.6 years of Bush the junior.

America’s average growth in jobs over the entire period since the Kennedy inaugural was 2.0% per annum.  The U.S. labor market during the Johnson and Carter administrations outperformed that norm substantially.  The administrations of Clinton, Kennedy, and Reagan enjoyed fractionally better results than the mean. Jobs grew during the Ford administration at about half the normal rate and during both Bush administrations at just a quarter as much as the long-term trend.



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