On Friday morning, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment numbers for December, bookending President Trump’s first year in office. While the number of jobs added was lower than many analysts expected — up 148,000 — it was a continuation of the trend of growth seen over the course of 2017.
With those numbers in hand, we can now compare Trump’s first year in office to his predecessors’. And in that comparison, Trump comes out looking pretty good.
Relative to the figure from January in each president’s first year in office (excluding those presidents who took office after a death or resignation), Trump saw one of the biggest percentage-point drops in the unemployment rate.
The only presidents with larger drops were Bill Clinton in 1993 (a decline of 0.8 points) and Jimmy Carter in 1977 (down 1.1). Both of those presidents, though, ended their first years with much higher unemployment rates, both over 6 percent.
There’s a trend that you’ll notice in these charts. Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, saw a surge in the unemployment rate during his first year, a function of the effects of the recession that was just beginning to wind down. Relative to Obama’s first year in office, Trump’s was consistently very good.
For example, in the number of jobs created or lost over the year: Under Trump, there were 1.8 million more people working in December than in January. Under Obama, 4.3 million fewer.
It’s important to note, though, that Obama’s first year in office was also by far his worst. Over the next seven years of his presidency, Obama saw increases in employment — and at higher monthly averages than Trump saw in 2017.
But we’re comparing first years here, and on that metric Trump consistently outperforms Obama.
Trump will certainly be pleased by two other first-year comparisons. Between January and December of last year, the country added 184,000 manufacturing jobs, the third-most of the presidents for whom data is available after Carter and John Kennedy.
The number of federal government jobs declined over the first 11 months of Trump’s presidency; they rose during Obama’s first year in part thanks to the 2010 Census.
Trump’s consistently celebrated the economic numbers the country has seen during his time in office and the numbers from the BLS certainly give him some reason to do so. The question from this point, though, is how and if that economic growth can be sustained.