Claim: President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the American economy under his leadership has been the best in history.
Rating: This claim is MOSTLY FALSE. Prior to COVID-19, even though the economy was generally fine under Trump, the economy was stronger in other periods in history. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, America has experienced record unemployment and job loss, the highest of any developed country in the world.
How well an economy is doing can be measured by a number of factors: the overall economic growth (as measured in GDP), unemployment numbers, and job growth. Prior to 2020, the GDP growth under Trump was at an average of 2.3%, with the greatest being 3.1% in early 2019. This is significantly less than the 5.5% peak achieved in the second quarter of 2014 during the Obama presidency. In addition, there were times in the 1950s and 1960s when GDP growth was even higher. In 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 and 8%, respectively.
In February this year, the unemployment rate was 3.5%. However, the unemployment rate was as low as 2.5% in 1953. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment peaked at 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression. Considering that nations around the world experienced unemployment due to COVID-19, are America’s numbers unusual? According to a study from the Brookings Institute, America has had the worst unemployment rate of any developed nation.
Prior to COVID-19, the job market under Trump was comparable to the Obama administration. During the last 36 months under Obama, employers were adding an average of 224,000 jobs a month. When taking into account the millions of jobs lost during the Great Recession, the average job growth under Obama was 109,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, in the first 36 months of Trump’s presidency, the economy was adding an average of 182,000 jobs a month. And in March and April 2020, a record 22.2 million jobs were lost, effectively negating years of job gains. States have slowly begun to reopen their economies, but only 42% of those job losses have been regained.
It is true that the return on the Dow Jones has been very good under Trump. Yet, it still lags behind the stock market returns under Obama and Clinton. Following its COVID crash earlier this year, the stock market has slowly been trending upward. But with unemployment still being at record levels, experts believe the economic recovery will continue to be slow.
Prior to 2020, Trump’s trade policies had caused economic slowdown. His tariffs have hurt U.S. manufacturing and agriculture. Consequently, trade deficits have increased substantially under Trump; the U.S. is steadily importing more goods than it is exporting.
While Obama had been trying to slow the growth of government debt, since Trump took office, the federal budget deficit has gone up nearly 50% by 2019. That means Trump’s tax cuts and increased government spending have added substantially to the national debt; it had hit a record $22 trillion in 2019.
Conclusion: Trump had repeatedly boasted about how he inherited a struggling economy from Obama and led it to record growth. Our research shows that Trump’s claims were MOSTLY FALSE. While prior to COVID-19, the economy was generally fine under Trump, it was not the best in U.S. history. It had actually been accruing debt at a record rate. And due to the administration’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. now has the highest unemployment rate of any other developed country.