President Obama and President-elect Trump have very little in common and, despite hollow public displays of bipartisanship, they are unlikely to have a chummy relationship with each other during the Trump presidency.
I imagine few Christmas cards will be exchanged between the two in the coming years.
President Obama is, however, handing Trump a huge gift in the form of a resurgent U.S. economy that is on much more stable footing than the one that was handed over to him by the George W. Bush Administration.
Sadly, assigning credit to President Obama for anything is anathema to conservatives, even when faced with incontrovertible facts. Even so, the macro-level indicators of the U.S. economy are strong and, though he would never admit it publicly, it sets a dauntingly high standard for Trump who has promised (multiple times) to be the “greatest jobs producer God ever created.”
The final Department of Labor jobs report under Obama’s tenure reported that 156,000 jobs were created in December. This brings the total number of jobs created under President Obama to roughly 11.3 million. That is a rather ho-hum performance until you consider the fact that he presided over the worst economic recession since the Great Depression – impolitely handed to him by his predecessor – which eroded just under 9 million jobs from the economy. For perspective, 2.1 million net new jobs were created under eight years of President George W. Bush and 22.9 million under President Clinton.
All told, the U.S. economy has added jobs for 75 straight months – the longest streak of job growth in the country’s history and more than two years longer than the next-longest streak.
The month of December also brought about a report that the U.S. economy grew at a greater clip in the 3rd quarter of last year than previously expected. Gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 3.5% – the fastest in two years and awfully close to the psychologically-important 4% mark. Data pertaining to GDP growth in the 4th quarter of 2016 will be released on January 27.
Aside from these top-line numbers, wage growth has been an indicator that economists and politicians alike have zeroed in on, especially in an era of unprecedented wage stagnation and income inequality. That’s why the bigger news tucked away in the December U.S. Department of Labor report was that hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls ticked up to $26.00 per hour. Over the year, average hourly earnings rose by 2.9 percent in 2016 – the best performance since 2009.
The combined employment growth and real wage growth noted in the tail end of the Obama economy have also resulted in rising incomes for American households. Real median household incomes increased by $2,800 – or 5.2 percent – from 2014 to 2015, the largest annual increase on record.
The economic – and social – good news doesn’t stop there. Corporate profits hit all-time highs during the Obama presidency. Ditto for the stock market. Consumer confidence in the economy in December rose to the highest level since August 2001. As Michael Grunwald from POLITICO magazine points out, the uninsured rate, abortion rate, and teen pregnancy rate are all at all-time lows, while the national high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. Oil imports and the violent crime rate are also near historic lows, while carbon emissions, home foreclosures, and illegal immigration continue to fall as well.
The facts are not in dispute. The economy that President Obama is leaving President-elect Trump is on remarkably sound footing compared to the economic disaster that Obama inherited. Here’s hoping that President-elect Trump bucks the law of averages and continues the momentum.
Sam was raised in our nation’s capitol and, for as long as he can remember, has always been an avid political junkie. In a former life, he worked as a staffer to a U.S. Senator. He now works as an economic development consultant in Atlanta, but moonlights as a freelance political writer as a way to scratch his political “itch.” He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.