Which President Created the Most Jobs?
Jobs Created by Number and Percent
To understand which president created the most jobs, you must look at the percentage as well as the total number of jobs generated to compare presidents over time. Over time, the economy has grown, which has made it easier for presidents to create jobs. For example, 159 million people were working in December 2019. That's more than double the 47.6 million employed in 1929, the earliest year the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted.
Presidents Who Created the Most Jobs
President Bill Clinton created the greatest total number of jobs during his two terms. He added 18.6 million, a 15.6% increase.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the most, percentage-wise, with a 21.5% increase. During his term, he had to recover from the depths of the Great Depression. But, it's not fair to use that because he was in office for more than two terms. Out of all the two-term presidents, Ronald Reagan added the highest percentage of jobs, with a 16.5% increase.
Here are the presidents who created the most jobs between 1929 and 2020.
Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Highest Number of Total Jobs Created
President Clinton added 18.6 million jobs. He was the top job creator in terms of total numbers, but the third-largest percentage increase with a 15.6% increase. There were 118.9 million employed at the beginning of his term and 137.6 million people employed by the end of his term in December 2000.
Unlike most presidents, he did this through contractionary fiscal policy. He presided over eight years of steady economic growth without adding to the debt. He created a surplus, reducing the debt by $63 billion. His Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 raised the top tax rate from 28% to 36% for high-income earners. He increased the top corporate tax rate from 34% to 36%. He created the earned income tax credit for low-income families and raised the gas tax by $0.43 per gallon.
At the same time, President Clinton cut welfare spending. Recipients had to get jobs after two years. His policies helped reduce the number of people on welfare by two-thirds, to 4.5 million, by 2004.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): Largest Percent Increase
President Roosevelt increased jobs by 21.5%, the largest percent increase of all presidents. He added 9.5 million workers to the 38.9 million who were working at the start of his term. That made him the fourth largest job creator in sheer numbers. This job growth was after he created the New Deal to end the Great Depression. FDR also built up the economy to enter World War II.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Second-Highest Number of Total Jobs Created and Percent Increase
President Reagan added 16.5 million jobs during his eight-year term, a 16.5% increase. Reagan added the second-largest number of total jobs, which was also the second-highest percent increase. There were 116.1 million people working in December 1988 compared to 99.6 million in December 1980.
Reagan responded to the 1981 recession with Reaganomics—an expansive fiscal policy based on supply-side economics. Reagan cut the top income tax rate from 70% to 28%. He also cut the top corporate tax rate from 48% to 34%. He increased government spending by 2.5% per year. His policies doubled the debt. To some extent, trickle-down economics worked as the tax rates fell into the “Prohibitive Range” of the Laffer Curve.
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): Fourth-Highest Number of Total Jobs Created
President Jimmy Carter added 9.8 million jobs, a 10.9% increase. He did that by adding $299 billion to the $699 billion debt—a 43% increase.
Harry Truman (1945-1953): Fourth-Largest Percent Increase
President Truman added 6.9 million jobs. The 13% increase was the fourth-largest among modern presidents. He added $7 billion to the debt to fight two recessions. The end of World War II caused the 1945 recession, which reappeared in 1949.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
President Johnson added 8.6 million jobs to 68.2 million employed in December 1963. That's a 12.6% increase.
LBJ spent on social programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty. That increased the debt by 13%. By the time he left office, the economy was growing a robust 4.9%. That created a 4.7% inflation rate.
Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
President Nixon added 9.4 million jobs to the 76.8 million workers at the end of the Johnson administration. That's a 12.2% increase.
He initially presided over a growing economy. Americans celebrated by importing more goods. As they paid in dollars, foreigners started redeeming them for gold. The Bretton Woods Agreement guaranteed an ounce of gold for every $35. The United States could not redeem the $45.7 billion in global dollars since it only held $14.5 billion in gold. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates to defend the gold standard, but that created the 1970 recession.
Nixon ordered a 90-day freeze on wages and prices, which worsened the recession. He soon abandoned the gold standard completely. That created double-digit inflation, as the dollar's value plummeted to $120 per ounce of gold.
Nixon won re-election. But his actions created the 1973 recession coupled with double-digit inflation. That situation is called stagflation. Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, due to the Watergate scandal.
Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)
President Eisenhower added 4.8 million jobs, a 7.9% increase. He increased the debt by 9%, or $23 billion, to fight two recessions. The end of the Korean War caused the 1953 recession, and higher interest rates caused the 1957 recession.
Part of Eisenhower's success with job creation was due to his creation of the Interstate Highway System. He spent $25 billion to build 41,000 miles of road.
A University of Massachusetts/Amherst study found that government spending on public transportation is the most cost-effective way to create jobs. One billion dollars spent on public transportation creates 19,795 construction jobs. It's a better unemployment solution than income tax cuts, which only creates 10,779 jobs for the same price.
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
President Obama created 8.9 million jobs by the end of December 2016, a 6.2% increase. There were 152.3 million people employed at the end of his term. That's compared to the 143.4 million people who were working at the end of the Bush administration.
But that doesn't give the total picture. The economy lost 8.5 million jobs as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. It kept shedding them until December 2009. Since that low point, Obama created 16 million jobs, an 11.6% increase. If measured that way, Obama created the third-highest total number of jobs.
Obama attacked the Great Recession with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It created jobs through public works. Many of those jobs were in construction. That successfully reduced the unemployment rate. But that meant Obama increased the debt by $8.6 trillion, a 74% increase. That drove the debt-to-gross domestic product ratio to 104%.
It didn't stimulate demand as much as creating the same number of better paying high-tech jobs. In fact, after the last few recessions, jobs created have led to greater income inequality, as rehired workers became willing to take jobs that paid less. The high level of long-term unemployed and underemployed meant that trend only continued.
Job creation would have been stronger during Obama's term if Congress hadn't passed sequestration. In his last FOMC meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted that these austerity measures forced the government to shed 600,000 jobs in four years. In the prior recovery, the economy added 400,000 jobs during the same period.
George W. Bush (2001-2009)
President Bush created 5.8 million jobs, a 4.2% increase. He struggled with two recessions. He lost 3.6 million jobs in 2008, his last year in office.
The job gains occurred before that, as he recovered from the 2001 recession. He responded to it with stimulus checks and the Bush tax cuts. But tax cuts are not the best ways to create jobs. He was helped by low-interest rates from Alan Greenspan's expansive monetary policy.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
President Kennedy added 2.4 million jobs, a 3.7% increase. His inaugural speech created confidence, and he endorsed deficit spending, increasing the debt by 8.6%. Kennedy raised the minimum wage, improved Social Security benefits, and passed an urban renewal package. That ended the 1960 recession he inherited from Eisenhower.
How Many Jobs has President Trump Created?
President Trump created 4.7 million jobs in his first three years. That's a 3.1% increase over the 152.2 million people working at the end of Obama's term. Trump passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.
How Do Presidents Create Jobs?
A president's record at job creation depends somewhat on the business cycle. For example, those who inherited a recession, like Clinton, Obama, Reagan, Carter, and LBJ, did better at job creation. They started with a low base and so had nowhere to go but up. Those that created recessions, like both Bushes, Nixon, and Eisenhower, did the worst.
Presidents have many tools to create jobs. The most important tools are expansive fiscal policy, especially deficit spending. Government spending can employ people directly and through contracting. That will encourage the private sector to hire through greater demand from consumers. But all presidents must have Congressional budget approval before they can spend.
A president does have one unique tool. He can inspire confidence through a compelling vision. A president who can articulate a message that reverses doubt and pessimism may be more successful in creating jobs.
How We Determined Which Presidents Created the Most Jobs
These numbers are taken from the household survey data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 1929 and 1947, they are taken from a special BLS survey. It counts the total number of people employed. That includes self-employed people, private household workers, and temporarily unpaid leave workers.
You may also see sources that use the non-farm payroll business survey data, also collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number does not include the self-employed or farmworkers. However, it does count those under the age of 16. It also counts a person who holds two jobs as two employed persons.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes employment statistics for each month. The number of jobs added during each president's term was calculated by subtracting the total number of jobs when he entered office—the end of December—from the number of jobs when he left office—at the end of December.