Claims of Trump vs Biden employment gains are misleading

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Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are claiming more than twice as many jobs were created in the first 30 months of his administration than in a comparable period under Joe Biden. This is misleading; the calculations are valid only by excluding millions of jobs lost and gained during the worst period of the coronavirus pandemic. Economists also say the numbers discount other significant factors, and are not an accurate reflection of the impact of each president’s policies.

A screenshot from Fox News shared by Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, on August 18, 2023 on X, and by Daniel Scavino, the social media director in the Trump White House, on Facebook, on September 14 makes the assertion that 4.9 million jobs were created in the first two and a half years of Trump’s Republican administration, compared with 2.1 million in the same period under Biden.

It also claims that twice as many manufacturing jobs were added using these same calculations. The same screenshot was shared on Instagram and TikTok as Biden and Trump ramp up their campaigns for the 2024 presidential election.

But the text in small print under the chart says: “New jobs exclude jobs prev lost to Covid.” The result, consequently, misrepresents total employment under the two administrations as measured by official data (archived here).

From January 2017 when Trump took office to July 2019, employment rose from 145.6 million to 150.9 million a gain of roughly 5.3 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The same database shows nearly 13.2 million jobs added from January 2021, when Biden took office, through July 2023 — employment rising from 143 million to 156.2 million.

Overall employment declined by 2.7 million when measured at the start and at the end of the Trump administration.

Screenshot from X taken September 18, 2023

Similarly, the claim on manufacturing jobs is adjusted to exclude the effect of the pandemic and reopening.

The official data (archived here) shows approximately 460,000 manufacturing jobs were added in the first 30 months of the Trump administration and 800,000 in the comparable period for Biden. For the entire four years under Trump, manufacturing employment fell by 170,000.

Trump supporters argue that Biden should not be credited with post-pandemic job creation because the Democrat simply recovered jobs that already existed.

Others point to the broader picture of jobs gained by Biden compared with losses under Trump.

Screenshot from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing total US employment, taken September 18, 2023

Many factors

While the numbers can be used to fit a narrative, economists say White House policies are just one of several factors impacting the economy and job creation.

“Administrations will always take credit for a strong economy and rarely take the blame when things aren’t going well, but I don’t think these comparisons are useful,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics.

“Trends in the economy and the job market are the result of many factors apart from presidents’ policies. Congress has control over taxes and spending, so presidents can only sign…

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