Obama's jobs record: Better than Bush's

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 8:00am

Mitt Romney is accusing President Obama of overseeing the worst jobs recovery since the Great Depression.

And months of disappointing jobs growth means the president could face Election Day with fewer workers than on the day he took office.

But Romney's accusation is wrong -- President Obama's job gap isn't the worst. In fact, it isn't nearly as big as the one President George Bush faced eight years ago.

Here are the numbers:

There are 261,000 fewer employees on payrolls today than when Obama took office. But at the same point of the Bush administration, the jobs deficit stood at 856,000 jobs, according to current estimates of the same period.

The data that was reported eight years ago was somewhat different, compared with current figures looking at that period, since revisions have taken place in the months and years that followed. But on Election Day 2004, the readings at the time showed the economy with 585,000 fewer jobs than when Bush took office. As Election Day approached, then-challenger John Kerry was highlighting Bush's job gap, just as the Romney campaign is attacking Obama today.

Private sector jobs: If looking at hiring by businesses, the gap is actually much wider -- the private sector has actually added 415,000 jobs since Obama took office. But it had cut 1.6 million jobs during a comparable period of Bush's first term. The difference is that budget-strapped state and local governments have slashed their staffs over the last four years while they were adding workers when Bush was in office.

Of course the unemployment rate, which is of greater interest to the average worker -- and voter -- than the payroll reading, was far better -- standing at 5.4% eight years ago rather than the current 8.1% reading.

But 2004's 5.4% jobless rate was up from a 4.2% reading when Bush took office. By comparison, the unemployment rate today is only slightly higher than the 7.8% rate on the day Obama was sworn in, and slightly better than the 8.3% reading a few weeks later.

The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the comparison between Obama's job gap and that of his Republican predecessor.
 

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