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• In raw numbers, Biden oversaw greater job growth than any post-World War II president’s first or second term in office.
• Measured by percentage increase from the time the presidents took office, Biden rates in the middle of the pack.
• Although Biden has easily outpaced every postwar president in job gains per year, he benefited from taking office on the upswing of a deep recession. He also hasn’t faced a recession yet, something most of his predecessors experienced during their longer terms.
President Joe Biden has regularly touted how well job creation is going on his watch, and he did so again at a Democratic National Committee event in Philadelphia just days before his State of the Union address.
"We created more new jobs in two years than any president did in their entire term," Biden said Feb. 3.
The statement was an updated version of the message the White House sent in an Instagram post in October. Back then, we found the claim lacked important context. That’s the case again.
The most basic way to look at Biden’s comparison is to measure job gains on each president’s watch without making any adjustments for time in office. We used official Labor Department data for every post-World War II president. (Pre-World War II economic data is less consistent.)
If you do that, three postwar presidents — Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton — saw a greater raw increase in jobs on their watches than Biden’s 12.1 million so far. Johnson had 12.2 million, Reagan had 16.1 million, and Clinton had 22.9 million.
However, the White House clarified to PolitiFact that Biden was referring to any single presidential "term," not "terms." And Biden did exceed the total in each of Clinton’s terms and easily outpaced every other president on the list. So by that standard, Biden did exceed each of the presidents.
However, this comparison requires important context.
For starters, the labor force’s size has grown considerably since Dwight Eisenhower was president. A more telling (but still imperfect) measurement is the percentage increase of jobs on a president’s watch.
Using this metric, Biden’s showing is in the middle. The percentage increase was more than twice as big under Johnson, Reagan and Clinton than it has been under Biden. He also trails former Presidents Richard Nixon and Barack Obama using this method.
Another problem is that these presidents served varying terms: Some served eight years, some served four, others served partial terms, and Biden himself has only served two years so far.
The most basic way of correcting for these variations is to determine the jobs gained per year in office. This metric is a strong one for Biden: His job growth per year is roughly double that of any other president’s.
This requires an important caveat.
The longer presidents serve in office, the likelier it is they will encounter an economic downturn. And the job losses during economic downturns are what hamper the job-creation averages for presidents.
The elder Bush experienced one in the middle of his term, the younger Bush faced one at both the start and the end of his presidency, Obama entered office with the Great Recession raging, and Trump was in office when the coronavirus pandemic hit, which created a steep, if short-lived, recession. Only Clinton was lucky enough to avoid a recession.
Biden has been fortunate: His strong monthly job-creation averages reflect the economic cycle when he entered office. He was inaugurated in January 2021, as the nation was recovering from the steep and sudden job losses stemming from the pandemic’s onset in 2020. The jobs recovery began under Trump, but because he was out of office only eight months into the recovery, much of the job gains accrued during Biden’s time in the White House.
Finally, it’s important to remember that although presidential job creation powers are real, they’re not unlimited. Presidential policy can affect the economy, such as improvement in the fight against the coronavirus partly because of Biden’s policies. Still, there are many other factors beyond a president’s control that can have an effect, including the health of the global economy and improvements in technology.
Biden said, "We created more new jobs in two years than any president did in their entire term."
In raw numbers, Biden did oversee greater job growth than any post-World War II president’s first term in office (but not their entire tenure in office, if they served more than one term).
But this achievement needs asterisks. Measured by percentage increase from the time the presidents took office, Biden rates in the middle of the pack.
And Biden has easily outpaced every postwar president in job gains per year. However, Biden benefited by taking office on the upswing of a deep recession and has not faced a recession yet, something most of his predecessors experienced during their longer terms.
We rate the statement Half True.
Joe Biden, remarks at an event in Philadelphia, Feb. 3.
PolitiFact, "Un-spinning a White House chart on Biden’s job gains," Oct. 13, 2022
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, all employees total, nonfarm, accessed Feb. 6, 2023
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