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2010-02-20 02:37:00 - By

Which Political Party Has Presided Over the Highest Unemployment Rates Since 1948?

-- Elephant vs. Jack Ass - Democrats vs. Republicans -- I've received a number of emails over the past few months asking if I could do a breakdown of historical national unemployment rates based on which political party is occupying the White House.

For those people - here you go.

The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) has monthly national unemployment data published on their site from January of 1948 until present day.

That's a total of 745 months worth of data.

To start - the AVERAGE monthly national unemployment rate between January, 1948 and January, 2010? 5.66%.

The highest unemployment rate posted during that time? 10.8% (November, December of 1982).

The lowest unemployment rate posted during that time? 2.5% (May, June of 1953).


Since January of 1948, Democrats have occupied the White House for a total of 313 months (out of a possible 745).

The average monthly national unemployment rate during those 313 months? 5.29%.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have occupied the White House for a total of 432 months since January of 1948 (out of a total of 745).

The average monthly national unemployment rate during those 432 months? 5.93%.

So, according to the data from BLS.gov, the national unemployment rate has been, on average, 0.64% higher when a Republican has been occupying the White House.

Here is a breakdown of each president and the average unemployment rate while they were in office:

Harry S. Truman (D) - 4.26%
Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) - 4.89%
John F. Kennedy (D) - 5.99%
Lyndon B. Johnson (D) - 4.22%
Richard Nixon (R) - 5.00%
Gerald Ford (R) - 7.77%
Jimmy Carter (D) - 6.54%
Ronald Reagan (R) - 7.54%
George H.W. Bush (R) - 6.3%
Bill Clinton (D) - 5.2%
George W. Bush (R) - 5.27%
Barack Obama (D) - 9.3%


Considering that the national unemployment rate is currently 9.7% and is not expected to drop under 9% until 2012, the Democratic average will obviously rise over the coming years.

It's interesting to note that the difference in the national unemployment rate between when Bill Clinton was president and when George W. Bush was president was less than 0.1% (5.2% vs 5.27%).

Note: in months where there was a change (for instance, Democrat out, Republican in) in terms of the political party occupying the White House, I counted the month that a party took office as part of their unemployment rate history. For instance, President Obama was sworn in January of 2009, so I counted the January 2009 unemployment rate as part of the Democrat's unemployment rate history

Source: Historical Unemployment Rates

Filed under: General Knowledge

20 COMMENTS - What Say You?

Comment by patricia george on September 17, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

I say bush made this mess one he'll of a mess and expected someone else to clean it up and PRESIDENT. OBAMA. has a tremendous load. Bush go back to busch beer and stay home you have severly damaged our country through incompetance!!!!!!!!


Comment by broomeister on October 01, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

What about looking at which party had control of the House and the Senate?


Comment by MyTree.TV on October 23, 2010 @ 1:25 am

Maybe George W. Bush is responsible for the 9.3%!


Comment by Oliver Mikkelsen on October 26, 2010 @ 8:36 am

Patricia George- Busch beer?.. Are you aware that during Bush's administration, Democrats controlled both the house and the senate. I know Bush has been a popular scapegoat but maybee its time lay blame it lies.


Comment by Ed on November 03, 2010 @ 8:44 am

Democrats crush republicans in almost every category.



Comment by tom on February 14, 2011 @ 7:44 am

respond to Oliver ! Republicans ruled the house and senate for six years of the busch admin. Till we had enough, but it was too late they did their damage which will not be fixed for many years!!!


Comment by Dan on April 01, 2011 @ 9:59 am

Respond to oliver!! I know democrats like to blame the republicans for the demise of the economy. Thats why the democrats wont fix this economy because they dont hold accountability. Obama going overseas for jobs is only taking away jobs from the american people because its cheaper in labor. Everything nowadays is all about money. The democrats blame game is so absurd. Why don't you blame jfk his unemployment rate was at 5.99% when he was in office? No, its easier to blame bush. So according to your post the american people had enough which was why obama was elected. He sure fooled all of you that voted for him. How ia the change he promised you going? Now american people are fed up again and I guarantee a republican in office for 2012. The economy will never get better with the liberal way of thinking!!


Comment by Rmsbn79 on April 18, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

Dan- Really? You want to blame JFK for our current economy because he had a 5.99% unemployment rate back in the 60's? That sounds like "fuzzy math". Why don't we blame Reagan, his was at 7.54% back in the 80's? Looks like historically it has been the conservative way of thinking that has resulted in our country's economic problems, from Hoover's Depression and Reagan's stagnant economy due to trickle down economics to Bush's tax cust for the rich and multi-war mentality. By the way at what point do Democrats have to stop fixing Republican messes and Republican grow up and take some responsibility for their own actions?


Comment by Ron Pecina on June 24, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

This dummy Obama campaigned on "fixing everything" but the only thing he's fixed is higher unemployment and more people on food stamps. He's been a miserable failure and the worst president ever.1.20.13!!!!!


Comment by smitty on June 28, 2011 @ 8:38 am

if you're going to do a comparison get rid of the "average" unemployment. Your articles sounds biased.

President Unemployment rate BEFORE he was sworn in and unemployment rate last day of his office.


Comment by rc45 on July 06, 2011 @ 11:14 am

Keep in mind that unemployment rates only reflect the number of people actively receiving benefits. If those run out, they're no longer counted. While both sides played games - like the second President Bush cutting unemployment benefit extensions to make the number lower while reclassifying food service works as manufacturing jobs. It would be nice to see the ACTUAL numbers for each president's term.


Comment by Adam on July 12, 2011 @ 11:33 am

Funny how this study begins in 1948 instead of 1938...


Comment by middleof theroadpolitically on July 18, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

Why don't you take a minute to plot unemployment rate, corrected seasonally and look at the slope of the curve. Sure seems to me like the Bush administrtion had started the roller coaster ride of unemployment and it only continued inertially under Obama. How was he supposed to immediately turn around such a dramatic trend. At least it is moving in the correct direction now, albeit slower than any of us would like.


Comment by ClarkeUSMC on September 02, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

@Patricia George and every other LIB/MARXIST that posted a comment blaming Bush: FACT - The Community Reinvestment Act known as CRA DESTROYED the US HOUSING MARKET WHICH IN TURN DESTROYED THE FINANCIAL MARKETS!!! PERIOD FACT! The CRA program was instituted, forced and over seen by DEMOCRATS! George Bush urged Congress on no less than 3 occasions to REFORM FANNIE MAE and FREDDIE MAC!! FACTS DRONES< FACTS!! DEMOCRATS DESTROYED THE US ECONOMY WITH YOUR STUPID MARXIST PROGRAMS!!


Comment by JT on September 26, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

The above indicates average unemployment rates - a better indication would be the year to year unemployment rates.

Interesting to note:
Under Bush I - U/E Rate:
5.4 - 7.3
Net increase of U/E Rate of 1.9%

Clinton 1993-2001
1993 U/E rate 7.4%
2001 U/E rate 4.2%
Net Decrease of U/E rate of 3.2% (-3.2%)

Reagan holds the distinction of having the single highest U/E rate of 10.4% in 1983, and Lyndon Johnson the smaller U/E rate at 3.4%

GWBush 2001-2009
2001 - U/E Rate was 4.2%
2009 - U/E Rate was at 8%
Net U/E Rate increase of 3.8%

Obama took office in 2009
U/E Rate was at 8%
Currently U/E rate sits near 9.1%
Net Increase of 1.1%

In actuality the Clinton numbers vs Bush II numbers do not come anywhere near matching up as Clinton had a net decrease to the U/E rate while Bush II had an increase to the U/E rate - there is an entire 7% difference between the two net gains and loses of these presidents as it relates to U/E rates.

In fact to find anything comparable to the net increase of U/E rate under GWBush, you would have to go back to Nixon, the period where he was president from 1969-1972 where the U/E rate jumped from 3.4% - 5.8%.

SOURCE: http://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet


Comment by Larry on January 11, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

I used to be Republican. I changed after Reagan. I was getting older and wiser. After living through a few presidents
I weighed the facts and changed to Democrat. I do cross the
line sometimes in state and local elections. If Romney,Gingrich,Paul,or Perry make it I'm moving to Canada. The Repubs have destroyed this country starting with Regan. The US can't chance another Republican.I'm Christian and I'm a Democrat. That was for all the Republican Christians. You can't serve two masters, God is mine.


Comment by stcywlf on August 13, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

the way I look at it the democrats benefit from peoples misfortunes.Welfare,unemployment.The more you got needing these serves the more votes you get.Pretty obvious.


Comment by Jimmy on August 16, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

If bush is responsible for the 9.3 then bushes dad was responsible for Clinton's 5.2.


Comment by butcherroo on September 08, 2012 @ 5:32 am

Busch left Obama holding the bag -- Obama has a way back to middle class prosperity -- we need to support that direction !!


Comment by Daniel on February 21, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

Your analysis does not take into account economic circumstances of the times in which these unemployment rates were ebbing and flowing.


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