Hillary Clinton’s Half True claim on job recovery during Obama’s tenure
By Louis Jacobson, PolitiFact senior correspondent
PHILADELPHIA — During her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton praised President Barack Obama’s efforts to steer the nation’s recovery from the Great Recession.
“Now, I don’t think President Obama and Vice President Biden get the credit they deserve for saving us from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes,” she told the crowd in Philadelphia. “Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office. Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs. Twenty million more Americans with health insurance. And an auto industry that just had its best year ever. Now, that’s real progress, but none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Not by a long shot.”
Here we’ll look at the employment claim — “nearly 15 million new jobs.” Is that correct?
Actually, to get that number, Clinton fuzzes the time frame.
To do it, she picked the low point of the job market under Obama. From that point, the United States has gained nearly 15 million private-sector jobs.
Specifically, the number of employed Americans bottomed out in February 2010 with 107.3 million jobs and rebounded, as of June 2016, to just over 122 million jobs. That’s an increase of about 14.8 million jobs — a reasonable approximation for Clinton’s phrasing of “nearly 15 million.”
But note the time frame for that calculation. It doesn’t start at the point “when they” — Obama and Biden — “took office.” February 2010 was just over a year after Obama and Biden were sworn in.
Essentially, Obama and Biden took office as the recession was spiraling to its low point, but it took a while to hit bottom. So after they were sworn in, the number of jobs continued to fall for a year as they worked to stop the economic freefall.
We should note that starting the count in February 2010 is something economists have told us is actually a reasonable decision, since the recession began under George W. Bush and Obama can’t reasonably be blamed for job losses in the earliest part of his tenure, when the die was already cast.
However, Clinton glossed over the difference in the time frame by starting the count at their inauguration. And how big a difference does this make? It’s not trivial.
Using this measurement, the number of jobs rose from about 111.5 million in January 2009 to 122.1 million in June 2016. That’s an increase of 10.6 million jobs, or only about two-thirds of the nearly 15 million total Clinton touted in her speech.
We should also note that Clinton chose to use private-sector jobs as the benchmark. That boosts the numbers a bit compared to total jobs because widespread budget-cutting in states and localities has led to a smaller government workforce.
If she had cited total employment gains rather than private-sector gains, the increases would have been a little lower — an increase of 10.1 million jobs (from the start of Obama’s term) or 14.4 million jobs (from the low point in February 2010).
Finally, we’ll note, as we regularly do, that no elected official deserves full credit (or blame) for economic results on their watch. Policies pursued by a president can help the economy, but other factors beyond the reach of a president — from technological change to improvements in the global economy — also play a role.
Clinton said, “Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office. Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs.”
Clinton specified “when they took office” in her speech, and the actual number of jobs starting with their inauguration is only about two-thirds as big — 10.6 million jobs. The 15 million number uses a different, more limited timeframe to count job creation.
The statement is partially accurate but takes things out of context, so we rate it Half True.
Hillary Clinton, speech to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016
Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National),” accessed July 28, 2016
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