Pence Says Trump Outperformed Obama on Jobs, Forgetting 20 Million Lost in April

Vice President Mike Pence, appearing on Fox News on Wednesday evening, made an outlandish claim about job growth under his and President Donald Trump’s tenure.

While discussing with host Sean Hannity their supposed accomplishments, Pence also suggested that the Trump administration had done a better job than former President Barack Obama’s administration (and by extension, former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president against Trump) had done when it came to job creation.

“We’ve already created more jobs in the last three months than Joe Biden and Barack Obama created in their eight years in office,” Pence said matter-of-factly on the program.

However, upon closer inspection, Pence’s claim doesn’t hold up.

The past three months of job data include May, June and July, and indeed millions of jobs were created during that time. Yet Pence left out the month of April, when 20.8 million jobs disappeared due to firings and layoffs as a result of much of the economy shutting down amid the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer than half of those jobs have been recovered, and to phrase things as Pence has done is grossly misleading.

“Alternatively phrased, we’ve lost more jobs in the last four months than we’ve lost over the entirety of any previous recession,” University of Michigan Professor of Economics Justin Wolfers tweeted in response to Pence’s claim.

Pence’s claim is wrong for another reason: It’s mathematically inaccurate. In the three months that Pence cited, the economy grew by 9 million jobs. Over the course of the eight years of the Obama administration, total jobs grew by 11.6 million.

In other words, the net number of jobs lost in the past four months — about 11.5 million — is nearly the same amount as were created under the Obama administration.

It’s also worth noting that Obama and Biden came into office during the Great Recession, when economic factors arguably made recovery.

Trump and Pence, meanwhile, took office as the economic recovery that began under Obama’s and Biden’s tenure was still continuing. Indeed, after Trump claimed during the State of the Union this year that “years of economic decay” had occurred before he became president, several fact-checking websites corrected his statement, noting that things weren’t nearly as bad as he was making them out to be, and that growth in income, jobs, and overall economic output had remained comparably steady from the time before he was sworn in to that point.

The jobs that were lost this year were due to the pandemic, and though a fast recovery wasn’t expected, some experts believed the economy would bounce back as soon as the virus was contained.

Trump, however, has done very little to help efforts to contain coronavirus in the U.S., including failing to promote social distancing standards across the board and discouraging mask-wearing for several weeks. At one point, he even viewed some moves to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to be resentful actions taken against him for political reasons, saying in an interview in June, for example, that people wore masks to spite him.

Trump also called on states to reopen their economies prematurely, a demand he made, according to those with knowledge of his thinking, with hopes that it would help his reelection chances in the presidential race this year, as he views a strong economy as his best shot at winning in November.