PoliGraph: Obama’s economy claims on point

With jobs and the economy emerging as the defining issue of the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama is trying to make clear the nation is much better off than it was before he took office in 2009 – but that there’s still a long way to go.

To highlight the nation’s economic progress, and to sell his new jobs plan that he says will make the economy even better, Obama invited nine local television stations from across the country to the White House. WCCO-TV was among them.

During his brief chat with anchor Amelia Santaniello, Obama made two claims about the economy’s performance during his time in office.

PoliGraph checked both of them and found that Obama’s statements are basically correct.

“In the private sector, we’ve seen over 2 million jobs created. This year alone, over a million jobs created.”

Obama’s benchmark is February 2010, the nadir of employment when the nation had 106.7 million private sector jobs, according to seasonally adjusted employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Currently, we have more than 109.5 million private sector jobs – a difference of nearly 2.8 million.

Obama’s also correct that more than 1 million jobs have been added since the beginning of 2011.

Obama got his facts straight on this one, and for that, his claim is accurate.

Next, a look at Obama’s claim that the economy has grown during his tenure.

Here’s what he said:

“The thing I’m proudest of is having stabilized the economy, even though it’s not where it needs to be. Keep in mind that when I came in office, the economy had contracted by 9 percent, which is the most since the Great Depression. By 2010, the economy had grown by 4 percent, so that was a huge reversal.”

Right before Obama was sworn into office in 2009, the recession had already taken a toll on the economy. Case in point: gross domestic product had fallen by 8.9 percent in the last quarter of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) – roughly the 9 percent Obama mentioned in his interview.

Obama is also correct that, in the first quarter of 2010, GDP had grown 3.9 percent over the last quarter of 2009.

As for the recession’s historical significance, Obama’s in the ballpark. PoliGraph found two instances since the Great Depression of steeper annual or quarterly GDP declines than the one in the last quarter of 2008.

But the BEA told us that the most recent recession, from start to finish, represents the most dramatic economic contraction since the government started collecting quarterly GDP data in 1947. (Before that, the government only collected annual data, which makes it difficult to measure the significance of older recessions compared to the most recent one.)

It’s also important to point out that, while the economy continues to grow, its expansion has slowed some since the start of 2010. BEA attributes the deceleration to a variety of factors, including fluctuating consumer spending, struggling exports and increasing imports, and periodic dips in government spending.

All in all, Obama gets this claim correct as well.


WCCO-TV, Amelia Santaniello interviews President Barack Obama, Nov. 1, 2011

CNN, Recession officially ended in June 2009, By Chris Isidore, Sept. 20, 2010

National Bureau of Economic Research, US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions, accessed Nov. 3, 2011

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics – CES (National), accessed Nov. 3, 2011

Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table 1.1.1. Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product (A) (Q), accessed Nov. 3, 2011

E-mail exchange, Caroline Hughes, spokeswoman, The White House, Nov. 3, 2011

E-mail exchange, Thomas Dail, spokesman, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Nov. 3, 2011

Interview, Steve Hine, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Nov. 3, 2011

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