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Jun 21, 2017

GDP, Inflation & Unemployment Rate by the Last 5 Presidents

By Team Stash
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Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Inflation and Unemployment are key data points that interlock to paint a picture of how the economy is performing. Below you will find data starting with President Ronald Reagan and ending with President Barack Obama, which shows how the economy has fared under each president.

Note: GDP data is presented in real GDP terms. It comes from the World Bank, using 2010 as the base year. Unemployment data is the official annual rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Inflation data comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. 

The timespan between Reagan’s first term and Obama’s last term in office extends 36 years. During that time, the GDP increased by nearly $15 trillion to approximately $18 trillion today.

GDP growth increased the most during President Bill Clinton’s eight years in office, at an average annual rate of 3.5%. It grew at a rate of less than 2% for Obama’s two terms. Of all five presidents, however, Obama had the lowest rate of inflation, at 1.4%, which would tend to increase the more modest GDP growth under his watch.

The national unemployment rate fared best while Bill Clinton was president, with an average annual rate of 5%. Contrary to what you might think, the unemployment rate was highest under Reagan, at 7.4%

Below we break out GDP, inflation and unemployment for all five presidents.

When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, he inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929. The crisis was spurred by a bubble in mortgage lending.

Due largely to a stimulative monetary policy following the financial crisis, GDP notched slow and steady gains, increasing by $2.2 trillion in eight years.

GDP growth under President Obama has been steady, but anemic, notching increases between 1.3% and 2.6% annually

Inflation under President Obama was nearly non-existent. And as the economy improved, the unemployment rate fell from near 10% to less than half that by 2016. Obama left office with the economy on sound footing.

George W. Bush won office in a contested election in 2000, and his administration soon had to deal with the September 11 terrorist attacks, which plunged the U.S. into a short recession, and led to U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Under Bush, the economy grew by $2 trillion in eight years.

During Bush’s eight years in office, the GDP increased at rates between 1% and 3.8%. Much of the growth, however, resulted from deregulation of financial markets, which led to excesses in mortgage lending and an economic bubble.The bubble collapsed and the economy fell into a recession in 2008.

Inflation remained low under Bush. But as the mortgage crisis unfolded in the last two years of Bush’s term, millions of workers in multiple industries lost their jobs, and unemployment levels spiked, while economic growth fell.

Although President Bill Clinton’s administration was marred by his personal scandals, his time in office is known for the economic miracle of the 1990s. Fueled by the rapid growth of the first wave of Dotcom companies, GDP powered ahead, and a broad base of workers–some 21.5 million in all–found jobs.

During Clinton’s time in office, the GDP increased by nearly $3 trillion.

As the economy steadily grew, unemployment rates continued falling, but inflation began to climb as well. The good times came crashing down when the Dotcom bubble burst in 2000.

In all but three years, GDP increased at a rate between of more than 4%, about twice the current rate of increase.

President George H.W. Bush’s sole term was beset by recession and high unemployment that followed the entry of the U.S. into the First Gulf War in Iraq.

GDP grew only by about $500 billion Under Bush.

Shortly after launching the first Gulf War in 1990, the U.S. fell into a recession, with GDP falling 0.1%.

Although inflation trended down about 2.5 percentage points to 3% during the first Bush’s years, unemployment ticked up to 7.4%. The increase in unemployment and the poorly performing economy sealed Bush’s fate as a one-term president.

The Reagan years saw deregulation, tax cuts, and a roaring stock market as some of their hallmarks . But inflation remained high–more than twice the rate it is now.

GDP increased by nearly $2 trillion, or more than 25%, under Reagan.

The Reagan years saw unemployment fall by half, from a high of near 11%. Inflation also fell by more than half to 4% under his watch.

The Reagan years saw unemployment fall by half, from a high of near 11%. Inflation also fell by more than half to 4% under his watch.

Each of the past five presidents has had his own very different economic legacy, with the biggest gains experienced by Presidents Clinton and Reagan, who both presided over historic boom times. Inflation, unemployment, and GDP are three metrics that can help us understand how each administration and its policies, as well as the circumstances it inherits, can shape the economy.

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