There was a post from the White House recently that triggered a lot of people. To wit, Donald Trump, Jr., took great offense to a chart published by Joe Biden’s team on Instagram:
The post has triggered some conservatives, who cannot believe that the White House would outright lie about job growth. Well, here’s the problem: The graph is correct. Job growth under Biden’s first year in office has been historic.
You can actually go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and see the growth for yourself. On the first Friday of every month1 the BLS puts out their report called, “The Employment Situation,” a.k.a, the “jobs report” and it provides a summary of all the jobs created (or lost) in the previous month. They do this by looking at payrolls of private companies, but also by doing household surveys (yes, the BLS actually calls people to see if they have a job). Each jobs report is meant to be preliminary and subject to revision in a later report after they get more data, which happens frequently.
The chart Biden’s team is using above is based on jobs report data. On the BLS website, they show you this in a truly ugly display, mostly to remind you that it is definitely from the government:
As you can see, totals for the Biden Administration in 2021 were pretty big: In his first full month in office, the economy created 536,000 jobs and his best month was 1.09 million jobs, which is way, way higher than the historical norm.
You can also see Trump’s numbers and if you look closely you will see what is (I guess?) a little known secret: His job numbers - while very good - were not historic. In his first year in office, the economy was averaging around 181,000 jobs a month. That is slower than Obama’s final year in office, where the economy was creating 193,000 jobs a month, on average. And then compare both years to Biden, who averaged 537,000 jobs per month during his first year in office.2
So, how is Biden beating the former President, who supposedly had created the “best economy of all time” before COVID hit? There are two answers:
Trump lied excessively about his economic success.
Trump inherited a good economy from Obama and, to his credit, kept that economy going. It was one that was creating jobs at a steady pace each month, even if wage growth was a little lackluster. And after Trump became President, the economy didn’t magically shut down or implode, like many liberals predicted. However, that did happen after COVID hit, and you can see that in the chart above when you look at April of 2020: The economy lost around 20 million jobs in one month. Trump wasn’t able to recover those numbers in the final year of his presidency, which is why he ends up with negative job growth in the chart put together by the White House. But, if you do look closely at the BLS numbers, the economy was creating millions of jobs in the months after April 2020, at least up until the Fall/Winter of that year when we started losing jobs again. This actually brings us to the second answer:
The economy rebounds naturally from severe job loss.
We are currently in an up-cycle from a severe economic downturn; the same reason the economy created 4.8 million jobs in June of 2020 is the same reason we are creating around 537,000 jobs a month right now: A severe bust often leads to a severe boom. It is safe to say that if Trump had gotten reelected, he would probably be seeing similar numbers to what Biden is seeing right now (same logic applies if Obama had been allowed to run for a third term).
That’s because, in general, there is very little the President can do to have a major effect on economic growth. To put it simply, the economy creates jobs, not the President.
I don’t want to take away too much from the Biden Administration, since I think a lot of their policies have helped jump-start the economy. The vaccine rollout was impressive and let the economy reopen. Giving more checks to Americans also helped keep businesses open and also helped people spend money at said businesses. Significantly, unemployment is at 3.9%, a mark the Congressional Budget Office initially didn’t think we’d hit until 2025.
They deserve praise for these things, as long as we separately note that a lot of the pent-up demand from people with cash is contributing to inflation (even if it currently caused by supply chain issues).
But the overall reason that the Biden Administration is publishing stuff like this (whereas the Obama Administration didn’t) is that they learned it from Trump. He took credit for literally every job created under his Administration and inflated his own numbers. For every tick up in the stock market, we got a Trump tweet. So, you live by the sword, you die by the sword: If economic growth is the measure of the president’s success, the numbers clearly tell us that, right now, Biden is crushing it and Trump lost it.
In reality, the American economy is pretty resilient, and we should be thankful for it (and its separation from the presidency).
This is generally the case. Sometimes the first day of the month is a Friday and BLS waits until the following week to issue a report, which frustrates all 27 people who are super into reading the reports Friday morning.
A possible reason for the discrepancy between my number and Biden’s number is that they are not counting January 2021 as his, since he was only President for ten days. But I counted January 2017 and January 2021 for Trump and Biden, respectively, because if I hadn’t Trump’s number would have been even lower. Plus it lets us get an even 12 months in the calculator.