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During a Senate floor speech on Aug. 2, 2011 -- shortly before a vote on the final debt-ceiling bill -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., compared the job-creation records of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.
"My friend (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.) talks about no new taxes," Reid said. "Mr. President, if their theory was right, with these huge (tax cuts) that took place during the Bush eight years, the economy should be thriving. These tax cuts have not helped the economy. The loss of eight million jobs during the Bush eight years, two wars started, unfunded, all on borrowed money, these tax cuts all on borrowed money -- if the tax cuts were so good, the economy should be thriving. If we go back to the prior eight years during President Clinton’s administration, 23 million new jobs were created."
A reader asked us whether Reid was correct that there was a "loss of eight million jobs during the Bush eight years." So we looked into it.
As always, we looked at jobs numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government’s official source of employment data.
During Bush’s eight years in office -- January 2001 to January 2009 -- the nation actually gained a net 1.09 million jobs. (Because there were gains in government jobs, the private sector actually lost 653,000 jobs during that period.)
This isn’t remotely close to what Reid claimed. Reid's office didn't respond to our request for information, but we think we know what he was referring to.
From the economy’s peak to its low point, the nation lost 8.75 million jobs. Here’s the problem: The peak for jobs came in January 2008, while the low point for jobs came in February 2010.
This means the starting point for Reid’s measure came seven years into Bush’s eight-year tenure, and the low point occurred about a year into Barack Obama’s tenure.
In other words, Reid had a point in saying that there was a "loss of eight million jobs" -- but it didn’t come "during the Bush eight years." The loss of eight million jobs occurred during a roughly two-year period shared more or less equally between Bush and Obama.
Reid may blame Bush’s policies for every single one of those jobs lost -- an opinion he’s entitled to, but one we are unable to fact-check. Still, his statement is incorrect as spoken.
Reid went on to say, "If we go back to the prior eight years during President Clinton’s administration, 23 million new jobs were created." We looked at the BLS numbers and found that Reid was basically correct in that claim. From January 1993 to January 2001, the nation gained 22.7 million total jobs.
This means that Reid specifically counted Clinton’s job-creation numbers from his inauguration day to the date he exited from office, but he did not do so for Bush, even though he used the Clinton figure as a direct comparison. It strikes us as a clear-cut case of cherry-picking.
So where does this leave us? Reid is correct that more than 8 million jobs were lost in the United States during the recent economic downturn, but he’s flat wrong to say that it happened "during the Bush eight years." Compounding the error, Reid makes a direct comparison between Bush and Clinton, yet he uses one method that makes Clinton’s number seem strong and Bush’s number seem weak. We rate Reid’s statement Pants on Fire.
Harry Reid, Senate floor speech, Aug. 2, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, main index page for "Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)," accessed Aug. 3, 2011
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