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Sunday, April 16, 2023

By Request: Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs During Presidential Terms

by Calculated Risk on 4/16/2023 11:13:00 AM

Note: I used to post this monthly, but I stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic. I've received a number of requests lately to post this again, so here is another update of tracking employment during Presidential terms.  We frequently use Presidential terms as time markers - we could use Speaker of the House, Fed Chair, 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.

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, George H.W. Bush and Trump only served one 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 (dark blue) took office during the financial crisis and great recession. There was also a significant recession in the early '80s right after Mr. Reagan (dark red) took office.

There was a recession towards the end of President G.H.W. Bush (light purple) term, and Mr. Clinton (light blue) served for eight years without a recession.   And there was a pandemic related recession in 2020.

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

TermPrivate Sector
Jobs Added (000s)
Reagan 15,363
Reagan 29,351
GHW Bush1,511
Clinton 110,877
Clinton 210,093
GW Bush 1-820
GW Bush 2447
Obama 11,906
Obama 29,927
1After 26 months.

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 820,000 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 373,000 private sector jobs lost during Mr. Bush's two terms. 

Private sector employment increased by 9,039,000 under President Carter (dashed green), by 14,714,000 under President Reagan (dark red), 1,511,000 under President G.H.W. Bush (light purple), 20,970,000 under President Clinton (light blue), and 11,833,000 under President Obama (dark dashed blue).  During Trump's term (Orange), the economy lost 2,135,000 private sector jobs.

In the first 26 months of President Biden's term (Blue), the economy has added 11,824,000 private sector jobs, as the economy recovered from the pandemic.

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, 2010 and 2020. 

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 declined significantly while Mr. Obama was in office (down 271,000 jobs).  During Trump's term, the economy lost 535,000 public sector jobs.

In the first 26 months of President Biden's term, the economy has added 776,000 public sector jobs (about 70% of public job growth has been local education).

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)
Reagan 1-24
Reagan 21,438
GHW Bush1,127
Clinton 1692
Clinton 21,242
GW Bush 1900
GW Bush 2844
Obama 1-710
Obama 2447
1After 26 months.