The economy is "creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999."

Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 in the State of the Union address

Barack Obama says U.S. economy is creating jobs at fastest pace since 1999

President Barack Obama gave the State of the Union address on Jan. 20, 2015.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was notable for its celebratory language about the state of the economy, following a recovery that was widely considered long and slow.

Here’s one of the claims Obama made: "Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999."

We initially read this to mean that both the economy and the number of jobs had been growing at the fastest pace since 1999. That would have been a problematic claim, since the final figures for growth in gross domestic product in 2014 aren’t in yet. However, when we asked the White House press office for clarification, they responded that the president was making two separate claims -- first, that the economy is growing, and second, that the United States is creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.

The first of those claims is clearly true -- except for one quarter of negative growth in the first quarter of 2014, the economy has been expanding -- but we weren’t sure about the second part. So we decided to take a closer look at Obama’s claim that the economy is "creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999."

Looking at job growth over the course of the calendar year

We looked at total nonfarm employment from December of one year to December of the next, using official figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s what we found:

Time period

Total job growth

Dec. 1998 to Dec. 1999


Dec. 1999 to Dec. 2000


Dec. 2000 to Dec. 2001

- 1,735,000

Dec. 2001 to Dec. 2002

- 508,000

Dec. 2002 to Dec. 2003


Dec. 2003 to Dec. 2004


Dec. 2004 to Dec. 2005


Dec. 2005 to Dec. 2006


Dec. 2006 to Dec. 2007


Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2008

- 3,576,000

Dec. 2008 to Dec. 2009

- 5,087,000

Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2010


Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011


Dec. 2011 to Dec. 2012


Dec. 2012 to Dec. 2013


Dec. 2013  to Dec. 2014


So Obama’s on target: The job growth during calendar year 2014 was higher than any year going back to 1999.

Adding some context

That said, the current recovery is hardly perfect.

There have been three clear periods of job growth over the past quarter century. We looked at the gain in employment between the low point in jobs and the high point (or, for the current period, the most recent month). As this chart shows, these periods of expansion were quite consistent while they lasted.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Here’s the breakdown of the three job expansions:

Time period

Total jobs created

Jobs created per month

May 1991 - Feb. 2001

24.5 million


Aug. 2003 - Jan. 2008

8.2 million


Feb. 2010 - Dec. 2014

10.7 million


This shows that the current jobs recovery, while more robust and longer than the one from 2003-08, pales in comparison to the one that lasted from 1991-2001. Indeed, it pales in two different ways: The current job expansion has created 13 percent fewer jobs every month on average than the one in the 1990s, and it has so far lasted only half as long. The earlier expansion lasted for almost a full decade.

Our ruling

Obama said the economy is "creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999." The current jobs recovery isn’t perfect, but Obama is correct that it’s the fastest since 1999. So we rate the claim True.