America / Economy / Fiscal policy / Politics / Presidency / Regulation

A Comparison: Reagan, Obama & Jobs

A myriad of articles have been written on how the presidential election of 2012 should garner a stringent comparison to that of the 1980 presidential election.  I agree.  During both presidential elections the United States economy was and is hurting.  But, the focus of this article is: how did the presidents perform after they won the election?  A bifurcated approach, comparing the two administrations, on issues of unemployment and job numbers provides a glaring contrast.


The total number of people that are currently unemployed is unacceptable.  In January of 2009, when Obama took office, there were 12.04 million unemployed people in the country, based on short-term unemployment.  Since then, that number has risen to 12.54 million.  Shockingly, the number of people unemployed for longer than 6 months has gone from 2.6 million people, from the time of Obama’s swearing in, to 5.3 million people: an increase of over 100 percent.

In 1980, President Reagan walked in to a 7.6 percent unemployment rate.  In 2008, Obama started with a 7.8 percent unemployment rate.  Both presidents had an increase in unemployment rates during the first two years of their administration.  The similarity ends there, though. While Obama’s unemployment rate rose, it has still not come back down to where it started.  The current unemployment rate sits at 8.3 percent.  Reagan reduced the unemployment rate to 7.3 percent in his first term and brought it down to 5 percent overall.

As well, if Obama did not have a Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR), the amount of civilians over age 16 who are willing to work and are employed or seeking employment, of an astonishingly low 63.7 percent, the differences in unemployment numbers would be even more glaring, as the unemployment rates under Obama would be even higher.

Jobs Gained or Lost:

An average of jobs gained or lost provides a stark contrast between the two presidents.  Reagan, after adjusting for workforce size in 2012, on average, produced 360,000 jobs a month and created 13 million total jobs over his first three years in office.  Obama, in his first three years in office, has produced a miniscule average of 75,000 jobs a month with a total of 2.7 million, so far.  A key factor, to note though, is that there are still over one-half million fewer jobs than there were when Obama was inaugurated, an overall net decline.


President Reagan and Obama have had differing ideals and theories on how the United States should be run, and have employed drastically different approaches during their tenures in office.  The unemployment rates and job numbers show that Obama has had little affect in his efforts to correct the course of the nation.  On the other hand, Reagan not only fixed the course and the economy of the country, but just as important, encouraged Americans to believe in themselves and their country again.  These two presidents, in their time in office, produced very different results: one for the better and one for not.