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Bar graph showing manufacturing job change by presidential administration since 1948. Growth of 7 million under Democrats, loss of 9 million under Republicans.
For an interactive, state-by-state version of this graph, click here.
The United States gained between 5.4 million and 7 million manufacturing jobs under Democratic presidents and lost between 7.3 million and 9 million manufacturing jobs under Republican presidents since 1948, according to a new study by the Keystone Research Center and the Iowa Policy Project. Those changes came during nine Republican terms and seven Democratic ones, meaning that manufacturing jobs grew under Democratic leadership at about the same rate they declined under Republican leadership.

While the largest gains were posted under the earliest Democratic administrations included in the study—Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson—there was manufacturing jobs loss under Dwight Eisenhower, so the Democratic advantage doesn't come purely from having racked up big gains early. In fact, Barack Obama has a better record than eight of nine post-World War II Republican presidential terms, lagging behind only Ronald Reagan's second term in office. This makes for big differences:

The aggregate gap between Democratic and Republican administrations, using our three methods, is about 12.7 million. This means that if Republican presidents had performed as well as  Democratic presidents, the United States would have more than double the manufacturing jobs it has today. Put differently, the manufacturing employment share would be approaching the 20 percent employment share of German manufacturing.
Some of the difference in Republican and Democratic outcomes is attributable to luck, according to the study's authors, with Republicans suffering from bad timing in relation to economic cycles in some cases. (Then again, talk to Barack Obama about that.) But beyond that, they point to several policy areas, including Democrats' emphasis on keeping unemployment low through macroeconomic policy like the stimulus as compared with Republicans' emphasis on fighting inflation, as well as manufacturing policies through which Democrats try to aid that sector of the economy.

So what'll it be: the Democratic president who took office in the middle of a crash and has still accumulated a record better than eight of nine Republican presidential terms, or the corporate raider who made millions moving jobs to China and has promised to double down on the economic policies of his manufacturing-jobs-losing Republican predecessors?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 01:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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