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Growth In Jobs

June 25, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 26

As the talking heads keep telling us, the upcoming presidential election will hinge largely on the economy and, especially, on job creation. They are probably right.

An analysis of the job-creating performance of the 15 Administrations between 1945 and 2008 indicates that the Democrats enjoyed a sustained and substantial advantage over those 60 years.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, a total of 46.4 million private-economy jobs were added during the six Administrations that were Democratic, for an average of 7.5 million per four-year term. The nine Republican terms brought a combined gain of 25.6 million, for an average of 2.8 million.

When Administrations are ranked by absolute or percentage of private job gains, Democrats take six of the top seven spots. Job creation has varied wildly. The two Clinton terms brought an almost 21 million gain. The one strong Republican term, Reagan’s second, added 3.3 million. The three Bush terms combined added just 1 million.

Any effort to prognosticate on the economy and jobs is complicated by the staggering and unprecedented 8.9 million decline in private jobs that started in January 2008. Previous such periodic job declines since 1948 had averaged 2 million.

Of the 8.9 million decline, 4.7 million came in the last year of the second Bush term. Another 3.2 million came during the first four months of the Obama Administration. A further million jobs were lost before the decline bottomed out in February 2010. Since then more than 4 million jobs have been added.

All these data guarantee nothing about what impact the next Administration will have on the job market. But the historical record indicates that if it turns out to be Democratic, solid job growth would be the norm. If it is Republican, solid job growth would be the exception.

By Michael Heylin
C&EN Editor, 1977–95
Falls Church, Va



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