Fact check: Experts say post comparing employment numbers under Biden, Trump is misleading
The claim: Joe Biden added more jobs in a single month than Donald Trump netted during his entire term
Americans compare presidents all the time. But a post on social media claims one difference between President Joe Biden and his predecessor is particularly stark.
“MAJOR BREAKING: Biden adds 943k jobs — more jobs in a single month than Trump netted during his ENTIRE TERM. Are you glad Biden is President?” reads an Aug. 30 Facebook post .
The post was shared more than 12,000 times in about a week.
Strictly looking at the numbers, the claim is accurate. But experts say comparing one president’s good month to four years of fluctuating job numbers is misleading.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the claim for comment.
Claim makes unfair comparison, experts say
The job market has grown steadily under the Biden administration, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But experts say the president can't take all the credit.
In May , total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 559,000, and in June, it rose by 962,000. August saw a smaller increase in jobs, at around 235,000.
July was the best month of the summer, with total nonfarm employment rising by more than 1 million. That figure was adjusted from 943,000 – the number in the claim – in the bureau’s August employment report .
The post compares that number to the number of jobs Trump netted throughout his entire term, a figure determined by subtracting the total number of jobs when he entered office from the number of jobs when he left office.
When Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, there were nearly 145.6 million employed Americans, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By December 2020 , his last full month in office, there were about 142.6 million total nonfarm employees — about 3 million fewer than when Trump took office.
Looking at the numbers alone, the claim is accurate. But experts say it’s a misleading way to compare the data.
“It is a bit unconventional to compare net jobs over a 4-year period to a single one-month change in employment,” Mary Ann Bronson , an economics professor at Georgetown University, said in an email. “The latter will always have much higher variance, be subject to seasonal fluctuations, and of course also to other short-run fluctuations (especially in the current health environment).”
Bronson said a more meaningful analysis would address the unique circumstances of Trump's time in office, such as net job creation under the Trump administration prior to the pandemic, how the first months of pandemic job losses compared to other countries and how much employment recovered in the U.S. compared to those countries.
But Dean Baker , a senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, said a meaningful analysis is rarely the goal when comparisons such as this are made.
“It is certainly not a fair comparison, but it is standard for what passes in political debates,” he said in an email.
Baker said after the stock market crashed in 2008, former President Barack Obama assumed office amid an economic “free fall,” when nearly 700,000 jobs were disappearing each month. Despite the fact that Obama inherited that economy, critics used the crisis as an opportunity to place blame.
“Obviously, this had nothing to do with anything Obama did, but that didn't prevent Republicans from blaming him for the huge loss of jobs at the start of his administration,” Baker said. “Presidents always get blame/credit for the bad or good things that happen on their watch, even if they had little to do with it.”
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that Biden added more jobs in a single month than Trump netted during his entire term. Strictly looking at the numbers, the claim is accurate. But experts say comparing one month of job data to employment numbers from a president's entire four-year term is misleading, particularly given the economic impact the pandemic had during Trump's term..
Our fact check sources:
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sept. 3, The Employment Situation August 2021
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 3, 2017, The Employment Situation January 2017
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, The Employment Situation December 2020
- The White House, June 4, The Employment Situation in Ma y
- Dean Baker , Sept. 3, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Mary Ann Bronson , Sept. 3, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Yahoo, Jan. 8, There are 3 million fewer jobs now than when Trump took office
- Washington Post, Jan. 8, Trump will have the worst jobs record in modern U.S. history. It’s not just the pandemic .
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Experts say post comparing employment numbers under Biden, Trump is misleading