Friday, January 10, 2014

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

by Bill McBride on 1/10/2014 02:46:00 PM

First, from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Jan 3, 2014:

[A]t the current point in the recovery from the 2001 recession, employment at all levels of government had increased by nearly 600,000 workers; in contrast, in the current recovery, government employment has declined by more than 700,000 jobs, a net difference of more than 1.3 million jobs.
By request, here is an update on an earlier post through the November employment report.

In April, I posted two graphs comparing changes in public and private sector payrolls during the Bush and Obama presidencies. Several readers asked if I could add Presidents Reagan and Clinton (I've also added the single term of President George H.W. Bush).  Below are updates through the September report.

Important: There are many differences between these periods. Overall employment was smaller in the '80s, so a different comparison might be to look at the percentage change.   Of course the participation rate was increasing in the '80s (younger population and women joining the labor force), and the participation rate is 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).  President George H.W. Bush only served one term, and President Obama is in the first year of his second 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.

The employment recovery during Mr. G.W. Bush's (red) first term was very sluggish, and private employment was down 946,000 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 665,000 private sector jobs lost during Mr. Bush's two terms. 

Private sector employment increased slightly under President G.H.W. Bush (purple), with 1,490,000 private sector jobs added.

Private sector employment increased by 20,864,000 under President Clinton (light blue) and 14,688,000 under President Reagan (yellow).

There were only 1,933,000 more private sector jobs at the end of Mr. Obama's first term.  Close to one year into Mr. Obama's second term, there are now 3,980,000 more private sector jobs than when he initially took office.

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 1990, 2000, and 2010. 

The public sector grew 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 1,748,000 jobs).

However the public sector has declined significantly since Mr. Obama took office (down 734,000 jobs). These job losses have mostly been at the state and local level, but more recently at the Federal level.  This has been a significant drag on overall employment.

Looking forward, I expect the economy to continue to expand for the next few years, so I don't expect a sharp decline in employment as happened at the end of Mr. Bush's 2nd term (In 2005 and 2006 I was warning of a coming recession due to the bursting of the housing bubble).

A big question is when the public sector layoffs will end.  It appears the cutbacks are mostly over at the state and local levels, but there are ongoing cutbacks at the Federal level - but overall - maybe public employment has bottomed.

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