Reagan vs. Obama: Unemployment

Unemployment Rate, Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

Labor Force Participation Rate, Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, Finance and Economics, Media, Policy, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Reagan vs. Obama: Unemployment

  1. Pingback: First Lady Bling - Pelican Parts Technical BBS

  2. . says:

    Energy prices rose during ‘stagflation’, stepper in late 1970s until 1981, then dropped fast. Energy prices rose fast during Bush 2. However USA’s economy isn’t as energy-cost sensitive as during the 1970s.

    Unemployment rates lag other “econometrics”.

  3. Brian Carey says:

    Does anyone remember that in 1983 the unemployment rate was redefined to exclude people not looking for work. This means (for comparative purposes) Reagan’s unemployment rate was over stated during the first 1.5-2 years in office.

  4. Interesting, so in theory when Reagan took over unemployment was at 7.5% including people not looking for work, and Obama took over when unemployment was over 7.3% excluding those that were not looking for jobs. That means that when Obama took over unemployment conditions were worse than when Reagan took over. Reagan’s numbers jumped as high as 10.8 % while Obama’s were as high as 10.1%. I would like to know what the actual numbers would have been when Reagan took office to understand what his real numbers were. With what you are saying, Reagan’s improved unemployment numbers were not what they seem (similar to the Obama budget increase numbers since he has added military spending to the budget when it was excluded by the previous regime). Reagan may have actually ended up with approximately the same unemployment rate as when he started, but the percentage drop would be indicative of the exclusion of people not looking for work.

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