I have posted a number of articles recently comparing President Obama’s employment record to George W. Bush’s, President George W. Bush’s record to President Clinton’s, and President Obama’s record to President Carter’s.
Out of curiosity, I decided to compare President Obama’s employment record with that of President Ronald Reagan.
Many on the right have lauded President Reagan’s economic record as an example of why conservative principles are better for free markets than Democratic ones. However, in the area of employment, President Reagan’s employment record was only marginally better than President Obama’s at the same point in Reagan’s presidency.
President Reagan’s tenure began with unemployment at 7.5%, only 30 basis points lower than it was when President Obama first assumed office in January 2009. However, the average unemployment rate for President Reagan’s first two and a half years in office was 9.0%. The unemployment rate under President Obama has averaged 9.4%. In essence, Reagan’s employment record at this point was only marginally better than Obama’s is.
The labor force participation rate also started at a lower base when President Reagan first took office compared with the rate under President Obama. However, during Reagan’s first two and half years in office, the labor force participation rate increased a meagre 400 basis points. For President Obama, the rate has moved in the opposite direction, decreasing 1.6 percentage points, as people have become discouraged and stopped looking for employment.
Again, employment statistics are the result of a myriad of complex factors. I will leave it to my readers to determine why there was such a pronounced difference in employment statistics during the first two and a half years of each respective administration.
Since Reagan was able to secure his re-election with unemployment at 9.0% two and half years into his first term, there still may be hope for President Obama. That said, by November 1984, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.2%. If President Obama does not preside over a similar turnaround, he may be looking for another job a year and a half from now.