Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is running on his record as Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017, and President Trump is running against that record. So on the final day of voting in 2020, who did better on the economy?
Biden-Obama by a hair, according to the Yahoo Finance Trumponomics Report Card. Trump’s current grade on the economy is a C, according to our methodology, with low marks for employment, exports and GDP, middling marks for stock prices and manufacturing employment, and top marks for just one thing—earnings. At the same point in the first Biden-Obama term, the economy was two notches better, at a B-. Obama got top marks for stock prices, with low to average marks for everything else.
Trump frequently claims the economy was at record levels before the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March. He’s mostly wrong about that, but the Trump economy was still notably better than the Obama-Biden economy during February of each president’s fourth year. In February 2020, Trump’s grade on the economy was a B+, with high marks on everything except exports. Obama’s grade at the same point in 2012 would have been a C+. The economy gradually improved for Obama as Election Day approached in 2012. Trump’s economy went the opposite direction, largely due to the nation’s inability to control the coronavirus and widespread business shutdowns.
Yahoo Finance established the Trumponomics Report Card in 2017 to compare the economy under Trump to its performance under six prior presidents at the same point in their first terms. We use data supplied by Moody’s Analytics on six key economic metrics. Here’s how Trump is rounding out his first term on each of those six indicators:
Employment. Worst of all 7 presidents, as the chart below shows. Before coronavirus hit, Trump ranked third out of 7. The Obama-Biden administration ranked fourth out of 7 on Election Day in 2012. Here are the number of jobs created or lost under each of the last 7 presidents, in millions:
Manufacturing employment. Trump ranks third best of all 7 presidents, even with coronavirus closures. Obama-Biden ranked fourth best. Here are the numbers of manufacturing jobs created or lost:
Average hourly earnings. This is the one area where Trump gets top marks. Biden-Obama ranked fifth best in 2012. To measure these last four indicators, Moody’s Analytics created indexes to allow comparison from the start of each president’s first term. The index for each president begins at 100, with the latest index number representing a percentage increase or decrease compared with 100. Trump’s latest index number on earnings is 106.5, or a 6.5% increase:
Exports. This data only goes back to 1993, so we can only rank four presidents. Trump does worst. In 2012, Obama-Biden did best. The latest Trump index number is 89.3, indicating a 10.7% drop in exports:
The S&P 500 index. Stocks are up about 38% during Trump’s first term, which ranks third out of 7 presidents. At the same point in the Obama-Biden first term, the S&P was up 92%, which ranked first.
GDP growth per capita. Again, the coronavirus recession has pushed Trump to last place. Before the virus, GDP growth under Trump was third best. On Election Day in 2012, the Biden-Obama rank was fifth best. Trump’s latest index reading is 94.7, meaning GDP per capita has fallen 5.3% since he took office. That’s the only decline among the last seven presidents:
While voters will clearly render a verdict this year on Trump’s handling of the economy, they’ll also be gauging whether to blame Trump for the coronavirus, which no president could have prevented. Trump gets poor marks for handling the crisis, however, and a more aggressive federal control effort could have brought the economy back faster. If Biden wins, we’ll be able to measure whether he’s able to do better.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: email@example.com. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.