BLS: Obama Unemployment Rate Above 8% Longer Than Any Other President Since 1948

Fred Lucas | September 18, 2012 | 5:40pm EDT
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President Barack Obama. (AP)

( – Excluding January 2009, the month when Barack Obama was inaugurated, unemployment has stayed above 8 percent, which is longer than under any other administration since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started measuring the monthly jobless rate: Over 8 percent for 43 months during Obama compared to a total of 39 months above 8 percent between 1948 and 2008.

Over the course of 50 years, the unemployment rate in the United States was above 8 percent for a total of 3 years and 3 months; under Obama alone, the rate has been above 8 percent for 3 years and 7 months.

Also, no other president presided over three consecutive years of average annual unemployment of more than 8 percent before Obama, according to the BLS data.

The rate was above 8 percent throughout 1975, under President Gerald Ford, and throughout 1982 and 1983, under President Reagan. However, the rate went to 7.8 percent in February 1984 and continued to fall steadily under Reagan – at the end of his second term in 1988, unemployment was down to 5.3 percent.

According to the BLS, starting in 1948, unemployment in the United States never surpassed 8 percent until January 1975, when it hit 8.1 percent. In the Carter years, it fluctuated between 7.5 percent and 5.6 percent. And from February 1984 to January 2009, the rate fluctuated from a high of 7.8 percent to a low of 3.9 percent.

When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, unemployment was 7.8 percent. The next month, it climbed to 8.3 percent and peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. It remained above 9 percent for all of 2010, before falling to 8.9 percent in May 2011, rising again to 9 percent in April, and dropping again to 8.9 percent in November 2011. For all of 2012, the rate has been above 8 percent.

Prior to Obama no president presided over three years of average annual unemployment of 8 percent. The average annual unemployment for 2009 was 9.3 percent, in 2010 it was 9.6 percent and was 8.9 percent in 2011.

In this April 24, 2012, file photo, job seeker Alan Shull attends a job fair in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

In 1975, during the Ford administration, the annual average unemployment rate was 8.5 percent. For two years during Reagan’s first term, unemployment surpassed 9 percent: in 1982 at 9.7 percent and 1983 and 9.6 percent.

Unemployment peaked under Ford in May 1975 at 9 percent. Unemployment peaked under Reagan in November and December of 1982 at 10.8 percent for both months.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment was the highest in the 20th century under the administrations of Demcoratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, particularly the years 1933 through 1941.

The unemployment rate was 24.7 percent in 1933 and declined to 14.18 percent in 1937. It then went up to 18.91 percent in 1938 and was still at 9.66 percent in 1941, when the United States entered World War II.

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