×

FINAL REPORT CARD: Here's how many jobs were created under Obama

Bicycle Corporation of America workers jobs
Randall Hill | Reuters

Of all his campaign promises, most of his supporters will judge President-elect Donald Trump based on his success in creating more jobs and boosting wages for American workers.

That's also how the outgoing Obama administration will be judged by history.

Today, some eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as Obama took office, the nation's job market has put nearly six million Americans back to work, as a net gain. That includes 156,000 jobs created in December, according Friday's Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the last with Obama in the White House.

But voters still remain uneasy about both the size of their paychecks and the prospects of holding onto their jobs.

To better assess Obama's record, CNBC.com analyzed the economic performance of the last six presidents using a variety of measures,calculating the net change from the start of a president's term to the end,beginning with Jimmy Carter's inauguration in January, 1977.

Here's how they stacked up.

Since the job market bottomed out in January, 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has produced more than 14 million jobs. That's pushed the total level of payrolls some 5.7 million higher than when the recession hit in late 2007.

Memories of that wave of job losses are still fresh on many voters' minds. But as recessions go, it was not the worst job market in the last 40 years.

That distinction goes to the end of the Great Inflation, the late 1970s economy that cost Democrat Carter the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan. In November of that year, as voters were going to the polls, the jobless rate peaked at 10.8 percent, the result of back-to-back recessions that followed a surge in interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve to tame double-digit price increases.

The plan worked, and the Reagan administration made good on its pledge to restore "Morning in America." The economy recovered, and the jobless rate plunged to 5.0 percent by the end of the decade.

During the worst of the recession under Obama's watch, the jobless rate peaked at 10.0 percent and has since fallen in half.

Despite the big drop in the overall jobless rate, many voters remain anxious about job security. One big reason: during the Obama administration, more people were out of work longer than during any time in the last 40 years.

Many have simply left the workforce for a variety of reasons. Some are baby boomers who have retired. Others are unable to find work and given up looking.


American voters also view their job prospects through the lens of their own experience finding work. And while the overall jobless rate has fallen roughly in half during the Obama administration, employment prospects remains sharply divided along racial and ethnic lines.

Despite his support for a series of policies aimed at closing the gap, Obama leaves office with a jobless rate for black workers that remains stuck at roughly double the rate for whites. That gap has persisted for most of the last 40 years..