Friday, February 03, 2017

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

by Bill McBride on 2/03/2017 12:36:00 PM

By request, here is another update of an earlier post through the January 2017 employment report including all revisions. This is the final employment report for the Obama presidency (the reference week includes the 12th, and Obama was still President during that period).

And, yes, I will post these graphs during the next Presidential term.

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.

We frequently use Presidential terms as time markers - we could use Speaker of the House, or any other marker.

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.

First, here is a table for private sector jobs. The top two private sector terms were both under President Clinton.

The third best growth for the private sector was Obama's 2nd term.

Reagan's 2nd term saw about the same job growth as during Carter's term.  Note: There was a severe recession at the beginning of Reagan's first term (when Volcker raised rates to slow inflation) and a recession near the end of Carter's term (gas prices increased sharply and there was an oil embargo).

TermPrivate Sector
Jobs Added (000s)
Carter9,041
Reagan 15,360
Reagan 29,357
GHW Bush1,509
Clinton 110,883
Clinton 210,085
GW Bush 1-811
GW Bush 2414
Obama 11,937
Obama 29,867

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, and President Obama is in the final months 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 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 11,804,000 more private sector jobs than when Mr. Obama 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 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 has declined significantly since Mr. Obama took office (down 303,000 jobs). This has been a significant drag on overall employment.

And a table for public sector jobs. Public sector jobs declined the most during Obama's first term, and increased the most during Reagan's 2nd term.

TermPublic Sector
Jobs Added (000s)
Carter1,304
Reagan 1-24
Reagan 21,438
GHW Bush1,127
Clinton 1692
Clinton 21,242
GW Bush 1900
GW Bush 2844
Obama 1-708
Obama 2404

Below is a table of the top five presidential terms for total non-farm job creation.

Obama's 2nd term was the 3rd best ever for private job creation.  However, with very few public sector jobs added, Obama's 2nd term was only the fifth best for total job creation.

Top Employment Gains per Presidential Terms (000s)
RankTermPrivatePublic Total Non-Farm
1Clinton 110,88369211,575
2Clinton 210,0851,24211,317
3Reagan 29,3571,43810,795
4Carter9,0411,30410,345
5Obama 29,86740410,271