Fact Check

During Trump's Presidency, US Job Growth Was Worst Since Hoover and the Great Depression?

President Joe Biden made this claim while delivering remarks in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in April 2024.

Published April 17, 2024

 ( Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Claim:
Donald Trump and Herbert Hoover are the only U.S. presidents on record who left office with fewer total jobs than when they entered office.
Context

This is technically true, albeit with some glaring context. During the Trump administration, the U.S. experienced job growth every month from his inauguration in January 2017 through February 2020. Then, beginning in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic became a major reality in the U.S. and around the world. In the months that followed, millions of Americans lost their jobs, causing a massive dip in job growth and skyrocketing unemployment.

On April 16, 2024, the @BidenHQ account on X — a rapid-response account for U.S. President Joe Biden's reelection campaign — posted a video showing Biden delivering remarks that day in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

In the video, Biden said, "There are only two presidents on record in all of American history that left office with fewer jobs than when they entered office. Herbert Hoover and yes, Donald 'Herbert Hoover' Trump."

Here at the facts: When Trump left office in January 2021, U.S. job growth had dipped and unemployment had soared to its highest peak since the Great Depression — when Hoover was in office. Also, when Hoover's term ended, he left office with a massive unemployment rate of 24.9%, according to The New York Times. In other words, Biden was technically correct in his assertion of presidents on record, according to as far back as the data is available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, during Biden's first three years in office, the U.S. saw a historic increase in jobs added to the American economy, all according to data found on the BLS?website. This data reflects the "total nonfarm employment" metric, which is the standard for such reporting.

However, there's some glaring context behind these facts, all of which we have spelled out below.

Trump Admin's Jobs Record and COVID-19

The Trump administration oversaw growth in the U.S. labor market in every published jobs report from early 2017 through February 2020. Then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic became a major reality for the U.S. and much of the rest of the world. The early pandemic period in 2020 led to millions of American job losses, causing a historic drop in the job market under Trump.

In February 2017 — Trump's first full month in the White House — there were 145,848,000 nonfarm jobs reported in the U.S. By February 2020, that number had grown by nearly 6.5 million jobs, to 152,309,000. However, by the time the April labor market report came out and the world was experiencing the pandemic, the number had fallen dramatically, to 130,421,000 jobs. In December 2020 — Trump's final full month in office — that number of jobs had grown back to 142,518,000, resulting in a total loss for his term in office of about 3.3 million jobs.

Biden Admin's Jobs Record

In February 2021 — Biden's first full month in office — there were 143,443,000 American jobs reported by the BLS. By November 2023, that number had grown to 157,014,000 — an increase of nearly 14 million that all came in the aftermath of the first year of the historic pandemic. As of March 2024, every month during Biden's administration had reflected growth, just as Trump's administration oversaw growth during its first 37 full months — albeit with smaller numbers.

Unemployment Rate: Trump vs. Biden

Under Trump, the unemployment rate in February 2017 was 4.6%, according to the BLS website. The lowest unemployment rate under Trump was 3.5%, which occurred in both September 2019 and February 2020. In April 2020, the number of unemployed Americans rose sharply at the onset of the pandemic, to nearly 15%. (For comparison's sake, again, the unemployment rate rose during the Great Depression to around 24.9%?in 1932.) By December 2020, the rate had fallen to 6.7%.

Meanwhile, under Biden, February 2021's reported unemployment rate was 6.2%. The lowest unemployment rate under Biden was reported as 3.4% for the months of January and April 2023 — the lowest since 1969, according to the BLS. As of March 2024, the number stood at 3.8%.

For a visualization of just how similar the unemployment rates were for Trump before the pandemic and Biden after 2021, we recommend this chart published by FactCheck.org.

Further Analysis

For further analysis of the job market recovery during the Biden administration, Snopes recommends reporting from PolitiFact and The Associated Press. Readers might also find helpful this full chart view of American job growth from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Sources

"Americans React to the Great Depression." Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/united-states-history-primary-source-timeline/great-depression-and-world-war-ii-1929-1945/americans-react-to-great-depression/.

Boak, Josh. "Biden Goes into 2024 with the Economy Getting Stronger, but Voters Feel Horrible about It." The Associated Press, 11 Dec. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/biden-economy-jobs-inflation-sentiment-53db7f95d14db2557b00424254208272.

"Campaign 2024: President Biden Remarks in Scranton, Pennsylvania."?C-SPAN.org, 16 Apr. 2024, https://www.c-span.org/video/?534907-1/president-biden-remarks-scranton-pennsylvania.

"Chart Book: Tracking the Recovery From the Pandemic Recession." CBPP.org, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9 June 2022, https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/tracking-the-recovery-from-the-pandemic-recession.

Farley, Robert. "Biden Cherry-Picks Unemployment Record."?FactCheck.org, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.factcheck.org/2023/08/biden-cherry-picks-unemployment-record/.

Gould, Elise. "December Jobs Report Provides a Clear Picture of Trump's Failed Handling of the Economy." Economic Policy Institute, 8 Jan. 2021, https://www.epi.org/press/december-jobs-report-provides-a-clear-picture-of-trumps-failed-handling-of-the-economy/.

Jacobson, Louis. "Donald Trump Vastly Underestimates Job Gains under Joe Biden." PolitiFact, 8 Aug. 2023, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/08/donald-trump/donald-trump-vastly-underestimates-job-gains-under/.

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"Trump Torches Democratic 'losers' Trying to Remove Him from Ballot." YouTube, Fox News, 5 Mar. 2024, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUFIhPzBEok.

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"UNEMPLOYMENT UNDER PRESIDENCIES SINCE DEPRESSION."?The New York Times via UPI, 9 Oct. 1982, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1982/10/09/208255.html.

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Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.