Last night at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton said, “Since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million.”
The fact-checkers have said it’s a fact, end of story. But I’m feeling especially wonky tonight, so I dug a little deeper. First, I pulled up the BLS data to see if I could duplicate the stats. I couldn’t figure out how to separate private jobs from government jobs, but I analyzed the full data and found 32 million jobs during Republican years and 48 million during Democratic years. If you add the private and public numbers from the Bloomberg article, that gets you there, and when you calculate the average per month, it looks pretty good for Democratic presidents. (The number in parentheses after the party initial indicates how many years of data are in that sample size)
Looks pretty much the same, though the Democratic advantage does shrink by 5,000 jobs per month. So I returned to the 1961 starting point and wondered what would happen if you offset the results by one year, under the assumption that the policies of an executive branch don’t really have a noticeable effect for about a year and continue for about a year after they switch.
This shifts over two and a half million jobs into the Republican column, or almost ten thousand per month, with earlier job gains more than offsetting the five million lost in 2009 that are now counted as Bush’s instead of Obama’s. But Democratic presidents still look decisively more impressive when it comes to job creation, no matter how you slice it.
But the Presidency is just one branch of the federal government. It is not immediately clear that the executive branch influences job creation significantly more than the legislative branch. How many jobs were added on average when the parties controlled the House of Representatives?
The Senate is even better for job creation when Republicans are in charge. And since you haven’t seen enough graphs yet, here is the overall picture when Congress is controlled by either party or split between them:
Interestingly enough, a split Congress is worse for job creation than when either party controls both chambers. I would have expected something in the middle. Who knows, maybe ten years is too small a sample size. But it looks like the most jobs happen to get added when Democrats are in the White House and when Republicans are in charge of Congress. So it should come as no surprise when we put it all together…
The D-R advantage isn’t as big with this reading. Either way, it’s entirely contained within the 90’s during the respective reins of Clinton and Gingrich, and it’s debatable whether or not they caused it or just happened to preside over it. Some of the sample sizes are relatively small, and it’s possible I have some errors in my data analysis somewhere as well. I suppose I could also adjust the data to compare changes in total population, but, hey, I’m not feeling that wonky.
Ultimately there are lots of factors that influence job creation in the United States besides who happens to be in the White House or Congress, and you can easily spin it one way or another to confirm your bias. Still, it’s not too discouraging to note the previous success of the D-R divide, especially considering that it seems to be our most likely scenario for the next few years.