When President Trump took office in January 2017, there were 145.6 million Americans at work.
In his 2017 inaugural address, the new president promised more. “We will bring back our jobs,” he said.
Four years later and about to leave office unable to get a handle on an ongoing pandemic, Trump has not delivered on his promise.
Friday’s jobs report showed the employment rolls last month included a workforce of 142.6 million total non-farm, seasonally adjusted, workers. December’s disappointing data finalized what has long been expected: fewer people will be employed in America when Trump leaves office than when he arrived.
Just before the coronavirus hit the U.S. early last year, Trump was on pace for a sizable jobs gain for his term. He was overseeing an economy with 152.4 million non-farm jobs. The pandemic then cut more than 9.8 million jobs from those levels. The net effect is employment rolls down about 3 million people from when he took office.
A Yahoo Finance analysis from September found that a range of other countries have also lost jobs over the last four years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession.
But even before the pandemic, Trump’s record on jobs was mixed. In July 2019, Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman analyzed Trump’s jobs record and found that “job growth has actually slowed under Trump” compared to Obama but not by a significant amount. At the time, he concluded that the occupant of the White House had had little effect on the employment trends.
In Trump’s case, the cause of a job loss begins and ends with the pandemic.
Austan Goolsbee, who previously served as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, said the Trump administration “did not take the virus seriously, and the number one rule of virus economics, that I always say is, that if you want to help the economy, you gotta get control of the virus."
Another measure is manufacturing jobs. Trump often touted his success in bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. That figure (seasonally adjusted) over the last four years also shows a decrease. There were 12.37 million manufacturing workers in 2017 and there are 12.31 million now. Recent history has shown manufacturing jobs have lagged other sectors of the economy, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House.
The ‘first president since World War II’ to lose jobs
On Friday, a parade of other Democrats – as they had been during the campaign – were also quick to pounce on Trump’s four-year record on jobs.
Rep. Don Beyer (D., Va.), who was Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee in 2020 and is expecting to serve as chairman this year, was quick to note that “when President Trump leaves office this month, he will become the first president since World War II to leave office with fewer American jobs than when his administration started.”
In a statement House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the December jobs report “is more evidence of the Trump Administration’s failure to confront the staggering health and economic crises brought about by the accelerating coronavirus pandemic.”
House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D., N.Y.) added in a statement that “as President Trump prepares to leave office, he will leave behind the worst jobs legacy of a president in my lifetime."
Michael Darda, chief economist and macro strategist of MKM Partners, offered some hope for the future: “This was not a good number,” he told Yahoo Finance, but said there were prospects for growth in the months ahead with a vaccine rollout. “That's what I think risk markets are focused on – looking ahead, looking a bit over the horizon here,” said Darda.
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.