NOTE: Several readers have asked if I could add a lag to these graphs (obviously a new President has zero impact on employment for the month they are elected). But that would open a debate on the proper length of the lag, so I’ll just stick to the beginning of each term.
Important: There are many differences between these periods. Overall employment was smaller in the ’80s, however the participation rate was increasing in the ’80s (younger population and women joining the labor force), and the participation rate is generally declining now. But these graphs give an overview of employment changes.
The first graph shows the change in private sector payroll jobs from when each president took office until the end of their term(s). Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush only served one term.
Mr. G.W. Bush (red) took office following the bursting of the stock market bubble, and left during the bursting of the housing bubble. Mr. Obama (dark blue) took office during the financial crisis and great recession. There was also a significant recession in the early ’80s right after Mr. Reagan (dark red) took office.
There was a recession towards the end of President G.H.W. Bush (light purple) term, and Mr Clinton (light blue) served for eight years without a recession.