The GOP v. Democrats – Jobs, the Rematch

Years ago, we emailed a good friend a set of data comparing Republican and Democratic economic performance since the Carter years. Our friend was a Republican. As far as we know he still is, but he wasn’t fond of the results. He sent a reply that read, “I think I can tell when someone’s cherry-picked the data.”

For the record, we on The Other Side let the numbers speak for themselves, but we’ve been on the lookout ever since for simple, straightforward metrics that shed a brighter light on the GOP’s economy-management expertise. As luck would have it, we stumbled across a Wikipedia piece titled, “Jobs Created during US Presidential Terms.” The article covers a lot of ground, but one part in particular caught our eye: a chart showing average annual nonfarm job growth per presidential term.

We couldn’t resist the temptation. We had to know whether the results would correlate with the conclusions we published in “GOP v. Democrats, Part III: Jobs.” In our several minds, we thought there was a chance that the Republicans would win this time, even though they were drubbed when the yardstick was unemployment.

According to Wikipedia, the annual Rate of nonfarm job growth per presidential term since 1977 was as follows:

President Party Term Annual Growth
Carter Dem 1977-81 3.21%
Reagan I GOP 1981-85 1.47%
Reagan II GOP 1985-89 2.80%
GHW Bush GOP 1989-93 0.45%
Clinton I Dem 1993-97 2.85%
Clinton II Dem 1997–01 2.33%
GW Bush I GOP 2001-05 0.02%
GW Bush II GOP 2005-09 0.24%
Obama I Dem 2009-13 0.23%
Obama II Dem 2013-17 1.85%

On average, the annual rate of nonfarm job growth during the last five Republican terms was a shade less than 1%. Over the same period, the average annual rate of nonfarm job growth was a shade more than 2% during Democratic administrations.

The usual quibbles apply. Our favorite: The newly elected president’s policies take a year or so to have an impact on the market. Our opinion: That’s true to an extent, but the latency varies and is largely subjective, which makes it impossible to measure. Our second favorite: The president is a tool of Congress. They make the rules; he (or she eventually) breaks them. Our opinion: The policies that affect job growth are generally determined by the president and then watered down by a detached, misinformed Congress.

The (empirical) job-growth bottom line: Republicans 1%, Democrats 2%.

To date, we’ve used four nonpartisan, easy-to-understand metrics to compare the health and welfare of the US economy under Republican and Democratic presidents. The score: Democrats 4, Republicans 0.

But we’re not giving up.  Sooner or later, we’re bound to encounter a barometer of economic performance that favors GOP presidents and doesn’t antedate the invention of the pocket calculator. In the meantime, we’ll look forward to another nasty-gram from the American Association for the Advancement of Innumeracy. You can support their cause by sending donations to the cable-news network of your choice.

Full disclosure: According to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.19 million jobs were created in 2017, Trump’s first year in office and a splendid result by any measure. From The Other Side: 2.34 million jobs were created during President Obama’s last year in office, or about 7% more than Trump’s first year, but a year is a fourth of a full term. Maybe things will change.


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