Barack Obama’s Criminally Underrated Jobs Record

Since Donald Trump said “there are no jobs” in 2015, the U.S. has created 3 million of them.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with restaurant employees
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The most-quoted line from Donald Trump’s speech introducing his presidential campaign was about undocumented Mexican immigrants being rapists and drug lords. Less incendiary, yet equally dubious, was his description of the economy. "There are no jobs,” he said, "because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have jobs.”

This wasn’t true then. But it’s even less true now. Here’s a brief tour of economic developments since Trump’s June 2015 address:


  1. Since June 2015, the economy has created more than 3.2 million jobs— more than the number of jobs in 38 separate states and roughly equal to the number of workers in states like Massachusetts or Washington. In the last 15 months, the labor force has added another Bay State.

  2. When Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate was passing 8 percent on its way to 10 percent. But U.S. unemployment has now been at 5 percent or below every month for a full year.

  3. The economy created 11 million jobs under President Obama, which is (literally) quasi-infinitely more than the number of jobs created under President George W. Bush, since his jobs created total was about 400,000 below zero. The economy has now added jobs for 73 consecutive months, a record.


  1. Median household incomes jumped by 5.2 percent in 2015, the year Trump made his comments. That was fastest rate on record, according to the U.S. Census.

  2. Average hourly earnings are now rising at their fastest rate since Obama’s first year in office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median wage growth for full-time workers is at its highest level since the recession, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve.

  3. For years into the recovery, only the rich were getting richer. But now, according to separate Census analyses by White House economists and Bank of America economists, the fastest wage growth is actually taking place among the poorest households.

No reasonable economist, writer, or politician should confuse progress with plenty. Obama’s economic record is underrated, but it is far from perfect. Social mobility in many parts of the country has fallen, and it remains dismally low for black Americans. Inequality in the economy grown during Obama’s tenure, and it has taken aggressive new policies, like the Affordable Care Act and expanded tax credits, to keep the middle class and poor from falling much further behind the rich. Many prime age men have left the labor force, puzzling economists, and finally, national economic improvements can overlook many pockets of sticky poverty, which have suffered throughout the otherwise steady recovery.

But, perhaps because the economy’s progress became steady and boring, it has faded from headlines while Trump’s lugubrious bluster about ghettos and “no jobs” has filled the vacuum. The real story is less dramatic, but all progress begins with an honest acknowledgement of progress already made.