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Attempting to defend his economic record, President Barack Obama cited manufacturing job creation as a key indicator of growth under his presidency.
In a PBS NewsHour special held in Elkhart, Ind. — the RV capital of the world — Obama said that his presidency has seen more manufacturing jobs created since the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president.
"We've seen more manufacturing jobs created since I've been president than anytime since the 1990s. That's a fact," Obama said.
His statement came in a larger discussion of manufacturing, where Obama tried to assuage the concerns of his skeptics. During the interview, Obama also claimed that the United States has a bigger manufacturing base than it has for much of history, but that automation has led to fewer workers at the same time.
But is what he claimed, that "we've seen more manufacturing jobs created since I've been president than anytime since the 1990s," truly a fact?
In one sense, yes, but Obama is using some clever phrasing and picking a most advantageous timeframe.
Manufacturing employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics best shows the situation. Remember, Obama took office in January 2009.
As you can see, Obama actually has presided over a net loss of manufacturing jobs since he has been in office of about 95,000 jobs.
But all of those losses are concentrated in the first year-plus of his presidency.
Isolating the period from March 2010 forward, the number of manufacturing jobs steadily has been increasing (though not back to the 2009 levels). Between March 2010 (the trough of Obama’s presidency) and May 2016, there has been an increase of 832,000 manufacturing jobs. This is what Obama was referring to, the White House told us.
And by that measure, that is indeed the greatest period of increase since the 1990s.
Is it really an accomplishment, though? That’s debatable for several reasons.
Bigger gains in the 1990s. The United States saw a bigger increase in manufacturing jobs in the 1990s. From July 1993 through April 1998, for instance, the country added 898,000 jobs.
Manufacturing was in sharp decline for all of the 2000s. The chart above shows how far, how fast the manufacturing sector has fallen, and while the jobs picture has brightened in recent years — far fewer people remain employed in the manufacturing sector. At the start of 2000, there were a total of 17.28 million employed in manufacturing. Today, that number stands at 12.29 million
We’ve seen job losses recently. The United States lost manufacturing jobs — 10,000 — in May 2016.
Who deserves credit? And while Obama did not directly attribute the recent increases to his policies, that is an obvious implication. In that regard, it is important to note that other economic factors beyond the president’s control also played a role. Sujit CanagaRetna, a senior fiscal analyst at the Council of State Governments, said external influences such as energy production and the global economic climate also played a role.
"We've seen more manufacturing jobs created since I've been president than anytime since the 1990s. That's a fact."
There has indeed been a consistent decline in manufacturing jobs between 1998 until 2010, so Obama is correct that his presidency has seen the largest period of sustained manufacturing growth since the 1990s.
However, manufacturing jobs have still suffered a net loss over Obama’s term. Obama’s statement could lead people to believe there has been the first net gain compared to the 1990s, but that is incorrect — just the first growth spurt.
We rate this claim Half True.
South Bend Tribune, "Transcript: PBS NewsHour Town Hall from Lerner Theatre," June 2, 2016
PolitiFact, "Barack Obama says U.S. has created half million manufacturing jobs in three years," February 12, 2013
PolitiFact, "President Barack Obama says American manufacturers are creating new jobs for the first time since 1990," February 22, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National) (main search index), accessed June 10, 2016
Email from Jason Miller, deputy director of National Economic Council, June 10, 2016
Phone Interview with Sujit CanagaRetna, senior fiscal analyst at the Council of State Governments, June 10, 2016
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