Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania recently argued that he saw “the strongest economy” of his lifetime during Donald Trump’s presidency. The GOP senator added, “That’s just an indisputable fact.”
In reality, it’s neither indisputable nor a fact, but quite a few Republicans are pushing a similar line. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, at a rally over the weekend, credited Trump with creating the best economy “in 50 years.” At the same event, the former president added that he was responsible for “the greatest jobs presidency in the history of our country.”
Look, I realize assorted partisans occasionally try to rewrite history, but rewriting recent history is bizarre.
In the modern political era, Bill Clinton set a high bar: The U.S. economy created nearly 21 million jobs over the Democrat’s two terms. Among post-Watergate presidents, Ronald Reagan is second, with nearly 15 million.
The cumulative total under Trump was -2.9 million.
At this point, the Republican’s followers tend to argue that this statistic is unfair, because it includes the massive job losses from the pandemic. It’s not an unreasonable point.
So let’s instead look at annual job totals since Barack Obama’s second term, according to the latest data from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- 2013: 2.3 million
- 2014: 3 million
- 2015: 2.72 million
- 2016: 2.31 million
- 2017: 2.17 million
- 2018: 2.31 million
- 2019: 2.01 million
- 2020: -9.41 million
- 2021 (so far): 5.05 million
Trump and his allies like to argue that the roughly 6.5 million jobs created during his first three years in the White House constitute a good number. That’s true. What they tend to overlook is that in the three preceding years — the final three years of the Obama/Biden era — the economy created over 8 million jobs.
Why did the job market slow down after Trump took office? It’s a question the former president and his followers prefer to ignore.
Whatever the explanation, there is no scenario in which the data points to “the greatest jobs presidency in the history of our country.” Indeed, this represents one of Trump’s more important failures.