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Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump

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Here is another update of tracking employment during Presidential terms.  We frequently use Presidential terms as time markers – we could use Speaker of the House, or any other marker.

NOTE: Several readers have asked if I could add a lag to these graphs (obviously a new President has zero impact on employment for the month they are elected). But that would open a debate on the proper length of the lag, so I’ll just stick to the beginning of each term.

Important: There are many differences between these periods. Overall employment was smaller in the ’80s, however the participation rate was increasing in the ’80s (younger population and women joining the labor force), and the participation rate is generally declining now.  But these graphs give an overview of employment changes.

The first graph shows the change in private sector payroll jobs from when each president took office until the end of their term(s). Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush only served one term.

Mr. G.W. Bush (red) took office following the bursting of the stock market bubble, and left during the bursting of the housing bubble. Mr. Obama (blue) took office during the financial crisis and great recession. There was also a significant recession in the early ’80s right after Mr. Reagan (yellow) took office.

There was a recession towards the end of President G.H.W. Bush (purple) term, and Mr Clinton (light blue) served for eight years without a recession.

Private Sector Payrolls Click on graph for larger image.

The first graph is for private employment only.

Mr. Trump is in Orange (just five months).

The employment recovery during Mr. G.W. Bush’s (red) first term was sluggish, and private employment was down 811,000 jobs at the end of his first term.   At the end of Mr. Bush’s second term, private employment was collapsing, and there were net 396,000 private sector jobs lost during Mr. Bush’s two terms. 

Private sector employment increased slightly under President G.H.W. Bush (purple), with 1,510,000 private sector jobs added.

Private sector employment increased by 20,966,000 under President Clinton (light blue), by 14,717,000 under President Reagan (yellow), and 9,041,000 under President Carter (dashed green).

There were only 1,937,000 more private sector jobs at the end of Mr. Obama’s first term.  At the end of his second term, there were 11,756,000 more private sector jobs than when Mr. Obama initially took office.

During the first five months of Mr. Trump’s term, the economy has added 821,000 private sector jobs.

Public Sector Payrolls A big difference between the presidencies has been public sector employment.  Note the bumps in public sector employment due to the decennial Census in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. 

The public sector grew during Mr. Carter’s term (up 1,304,000), during Mr. Reagan’s terms (up 1,414,000), during Mr. G.H.W. Bush’s term (up 1,127,000), during Mr. Clinton’s terms (up 1,934,000), and during Mr. G.W. Bush’s terms (up 1,744,000 jobs).

However the public sector declined significantly while Mr. Obama was in office (down 268,000 jobs).

During the first five months of Mr. Trump’s term, the economy has gained 42,000 public sector jobs.

Trump Job TrackerThe third graph shows the progress towards the Trump goal of adding 10 million jobs over the next 4 years.

After five months of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the economy has added 863,000 jobs, about 180,000 behind the projection.
Calculated Risk

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