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May 27, 2005 4:50 pm

Was Bush the First President Since Hoover to Lose Jobs?

The Scrapbook in the Weekly Standard (5-30-05):

Remember the favorite talking point of Democratic presidential candidates? How President Bush was worse than Herbert Hoover in the number of jobs created on his watch? After John Kerry made this point in the second presidential debate last fall, CNN "Fact Check" asserted: "Kerry is correct. . . . Bush is on track to become the first president in 72 years (since Herbert Hoover) to oversee a net loss in jobs." Kerry went on to make the same point in the third debate, and Bush let it slide. Maybe the president was tired of making excuses, though it was certainly fair to cite the recession, 9/11, the corporate scandals, and the bursting of the stock bubble as causes of the poor jobs performance. Maybe he was just embarrassed.

He needn't have been. As it turns out, there wasn't a jobless recovery after all. The first Bush term finished with a gain of 119,000 jobs. This is easily determined by comparing the number of jobs in January 2001 (132,454,000) with the number in January 2005 (132,573,000). Few in the press have done the math, Bloomberg being one of the exceptions. Democrats, of course, couldn't be expected to disclose they'd been wrong. And since 119,000 new jobs is not impressive, the White House hasn't touted it.

Kerry and other Democrats also claimed that 3 million jobs had been lost during the Bush administration. If so, they were partially offset every year by new jobs, a fact the Democrats didn't mention. The big year for the Bush jobs recovery was 2004, when job growth was a robust 2,201,000. In truth, it was clear by the time of the presidential debates that Bush stood a good chance of averting a net loss during his four-year term. That didn't stop Kerry from making the job loss charge, nor did it encourage Bush to predict he'd wind up with a positive number.

With the race over, the mainstream press didn't seek to find out if the Hoover comparisons were true or not. It may have been bias. It may have been indifference. Now at least we know what really occurred: a small, but real, gain.

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