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During the last election cycle, the Republicans were making a big deal about job creation.  They claimed that they had smarter policies than the Dems that would help the average American, including the record number of unemployed Americans, but that didn’t have the ring of truth to me.  So I did a little digging into historical unemployment statistics, and I discovered some remarkable facts.  For instance, using unemployment rate data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on January 1 of each year, it turns out that over the past 64 years,

•    Average unemployment has been higher under Republican than Democratic administrations (6.12% vs 5.39%)
•    Unemployment was highest during a Republican administration (Reagan: 10.4%), lowest during Democratic administrations (Truman: 2.9%, Johnson: 3.9%)
•    The unemployment rate rose faster under GW Bush than during any other administration over the entire 64-year period (+0.94% per year)
•    The unemployment rate has fallen faster under Obama than under any other President over the entire 64-year period (-0.70% per year)
•    Unemployment has tended to rise during Republican administrations (average change +0.23% per year) and fall during Democratic administrations (average change -0.29% per year)

That last bullet is a jaw-dropper.  Some more interesting statistics and conclusions below the fold.

Here is a plot of the data I found at the BLS website – US unemployment rates on January 1 of each year versus date.

US Unemployment Rate, 1949-2013
The trends were established from a regression analysis of each President's 1 January numbers.  The most remarkable observation is the obvious contrast of trends during each administration - up during Republican, down during Dem, almost universally.  Under Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush Sr, and W, unemployment was higher at the end of their terms than at the beginning.  Ford saw unemployment drop, but only was in office 2 years, and Reagan had a wild ride, but ended much lower than he began.  Of the 6 Democratic administrations (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama (so far)), only Carter saw unemployment rates go up during his administration.  

Now I would be the first to recognize that economic statistics are clearly dependent on far more complex  factors than who happens to be in the White House, but I would argue that the clear predominance of data favoring Democratic Presidents is more than coincidence.

I used the January 1 data each year to derive these conclusions - the numbers might change somewhat if you used all the monthly data, but the trends are dramatic and profound and don’t change.  I wanted to allow each President some time to establish policies, so for example I decided it would be unfair to attribute unemployment statistics for February of an inauguration year to the current President.  That is why I used the Jan 1 data - it allows each administration to have been in office at least 11 months for each data point.

Note that no President since Roosevelt has brought unemployment down faster than Obama.  The January 2014 data are not yet available, but based on the 6.7% rate stated by BLS for December 2013 compared to 7.9% in January 2013, it is likely that the downward trend will get even sharper.  I thought these data were telling, and am surprised these conclusions are not better known.  Given these numbers, I find it truly astonishing that the Republicans would even consider making the economy an issue in ANY election, let alone against the most successful administration in 65 years.  

Obviously, unemployment statistics are only one measure of a healthy economy, and Congressional actions and inactions, as well as world events, also have an influence on economic conditions as much as the President.  However, it is clear to me that something is going on to support Democratic economic policies.  Republicans will have to rely on the lack of understanding of economic principles and/or very short memories among the American electorate to be successful in the future.  

Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 12:29 PM PT: Many thanks to govs whose comment below points out a 2010 entry that takes a slightly different approach to the same information, and even suggests a key reason for these clear trends.  Check out his diary at

Originally posted to liberaldad2 on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 05:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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