President Obama is headed out of office, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released his final economic report card. Their jobs report covers the unemployment rate, job growth and wage growth in December, 2016. It shows moderately positive news for President Obama’s legacy.
Despite inheriting a global recession, President Obama’s administration has done good work building the jobs market. He’s had a record 75 months straight of job growth, with about 150,000 new jobs in December. Unemployment has stayed under 5 percent. Wages are up about 3 percent from last year, outpacing inflation.
Throughout his time in office, President Obama has added almost 15 million jobs to the economy. Manufacturing is down about 300,000 jobs since the recession but is showing slow growth. In December, this sector added almost 20,000 jobs. Health care continues to be a big employer, with 63,000 new positions last month. Unemployment rate is at less than half its high point of 10 percent.
Some conservative analysts have argued that unemployment is shrinking just because Americans are giving up and leaving the labor market. The BLS report has accounted for that and still shows a steady decrease in unemployment. In the past year, labor force participation has roughly stabilized. Between 2010 and 2015, it shrank from 65 percent to just under 63 percent. Since then, it’s stayed around 63 percent.
Economic data like this captures a snapshot of the entire country. It’s easy to look at boom towns like San Francisco or failing rural areas and not understand the numbers in the BLS report. Overall, this report looks at trends and compares sectors on a year-to-year basis. Growth anywhere in the country is a positive sign.
Presidents don’t have as big of an effect on the economy as the public often believes. True, some economists feel the auto industry bail-out helped stop the Great Recession. Others don’t. President Obama’s impact on America’s economy won’t be seen for several years, as the long-term effects of his policies become evident. For now, he’s likely happy with the short-term positive data in the last BLS report of his presidency.