Did President Obama really create 14 million jobs?

Obama's state of the economy in two minutes
Obama's state of the economy in two minutes

President Obama touted his economic track record in his final State of the Union Address.

"Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction," Obama said, a direct swipe at Donald Trump and other Republicans in the 2016 presidential race.

The president backed up his optimism with these statistics: "We're in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990s; an unemployment rate cut in half."

He's correct...if you look at the data in the most favorable way possible for him.

The United States has only added about 9.3 million jobs during his term -- from the time Obama took office in January 2009 through December 2015.

That's the most conventional way to assess a president's economic track record. Viewing it that way means Obama is pretty far behind the job creation of Reagan and Clinton.

Related: Obama's economy in 10 charts

jobs added under recent US presidents 2

14 million jobs?

So how does the White House come up with "more than 14 million new jobs" added?

The Obama administration derives that figure by looking at how many private sector jobs (so excluding government jobs) have been added since the lowest point during the Great Recession.

In other words, instead of starting at January 2009, the White House starts the clock in February 2010. The Obama team argues that it took time for the administration's policies to take effect to get the country out of the crisis.

By that metric, Obama looks a lot better compared to recent presidents.

Obama is still behind Clinton, but he's about on par with Reagan, although it's notable that the U.S. population is a lot bigger today than during the 1980s, so Reagan created more jobs on a proportional basis than Obama has.

Related: Obama's economic legacy: Unfinished business

How Obama stacks up -- by his own metric

Jobs added under presidents Obama way

The president's other claims are true, although once again on the unemployment rate, it depends if you start counting from the day Obama took office or from the worst point during the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate was 7.8% the month Obama was sworn in. It hit a high of 10% in October 2009 and is now back to 5%.

Related: Obama decries income inequality in final State of the Union address

In his speech, Obama did lament the inequality that persists in the United States. Wages and salaries have barely budged under his watch. The typical family is actually taking home less today than when he took office when you adjust for inflation.

"For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody. We've made progress. But we need to make more," Obama concluded in his own assessment of his economic record.

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