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Friday, January 6, 2012

What Was the Unemployment Rate When Obama Took Office? (December 2011 update)

Click HERE for all published jobs reports and updates for 2011, 2012, and 2013 to date.

The following post is for December 2011, over a year ago.  For updated numbers, please select one of the links above.

What was the unemployment rate when Bush left office and Obama was inaugurated?

How high did it go?  10.0% 
What is today's (December 2011's) unemployment rate?   8.5%

How many people were looking for work when Obama was inaugurated, how many were working?  And how many people are looking for work and how many are employed now?   Keep reading!

The Unemployment Rate when Obama took office:
  • For the record, when Obama took office in January 2009, the "official" unemployment rate in seasonally adjusted numbers was 7.8%, with 12,049,000 people reporting themselves as unemployed and actively looking.  142,187,000 people were working in January 2009.*  (These numbers are adjusted slightly since original publication as the Bureau of Labor Statistics updates its numbers.  The original January 2009 unemployment rate reported by the BLS in February 2009 was 7.6%)  
  • In "raw" numbers not adjusted for seasonal variance, the unemployment rate was 8.5% with 13,009,000 people reporting themselves as unemployed and actively looking for work.  140,436,000 people were working in numbers not adjusted for seasonal variance.

The Unemployment Rate at its Peak: 
  • At the "trough" (bottom in terms of jobs) of the recession in late 2009/early 2010, the "official" unemployment rate in seasonally adjusted numbers climbed to 10.0% in October 2009 with 15,421,000 people (out of a labor force of 153,822,000) reporting themselves as unemployed.   138,401,000 were working in October 2009; however, the lowest number of people working was reported in December 2009, when 137,792,000 people (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were working.    
  • In "raw" numbers not adjusted for seasonal variance, the unemployment rate reached a peak of 10.6% in January 2010 with 16,147,000 (out of a labor force of 152,957,000) reporting themselves as unemployed and actively looking for work.  Only 136,809,000 were working (in "raw" unadjusted numbers) in January 2010.

The Unemployment Rate Now:
  • Now, in December 2011, the "official" unemployment rate in seasonally adjusted numbers is at 8.5%, with 13,097,000 (out of a labor force of 153,887,000) unemployed and actively looking for work.  140,790,000 people are working now.  (Last month 140,614,000 were working.  This is an increase of 176,000 people working.)  The unemployment rate decreased .1% (one-tenth of a percent) since November. 
  • In unadjusted "raw" numbers the unemployment rate is now 8.3%, an increase of .1% (one-tenth of a percent) since November.  In "raw" real numbers, 12,692,000 (out of a labor force of 153,373,000) are unemployed and actively looking for work.  140,691,000 are working now in "raw" numbers unadjusted for seasonal variation.  (This is an decrease of 389,000 people working.)

To Summarize the Unemployment Rate Now Compared to When Obama Took Office:
  • Using seasonally adjusted numbers, the unemployment rate was 7.8% (and rising quickly) when Obama took office, and it is 8.5% today.   12,049,000 were officially unemployed back then, and 13,097,000 are unemployed today.  
  • Using nonseasonally adjusted numbers, the unemployment rate was already 8.5% when Obama took office, and it is 8.3% today.   13,009,000 were officially unemployed back then, and 12,692,000 are officially unemployed now. 
(Note:  All of my employment number reports are based on monthly reports and data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Monthly numbers reports are based on the monthly Employment Situation Report.  The Employment Situation report includes month over month and year over year jobs numbers.  My analysis is taken from the monthly BLS data copied to an Excel spreadsheet every month.  I calculate detailed percentage increases/decreases, 3 month numbers, 2011 to date numbers, and I compare jobs numbers to those at the time of Obama's inauguration and at the "trough" of the recession.)


  1. your figures are obviosly skewed because you are an Obama drone! The stats for Bush are 'seasonally adjusted" but the stats for Obama are not!

  2. Not true... where do you see that? I presented all three sets of numbers.. When Bush left office/Obama was inaugurated, at the trough of the recession, and now in both adjusted and non-adjusted numbers. You can compare adjusted to adjusted or non-adjusted to non-adjusted. Can you explain your comment?

  3. Thanks for compiling this data! I discovered your blog via a Google search to find out what the jobless rate was when Obama took office. According to a right-wing blogger, it was at 5.7%. Since that didn't sound right to me, I decided to do some research and here I am. I believe the lie about the unemployment rate being only 5.7% was started by Rush Limbaugh. Sadly, it's being accepted as truth by some on the right.

    I commented on the right-wing blogger's post correcting him on the unemployment rate in January 2009. It'll be interesting to see how he responds. :-)

    Thanks again for this informative post!

  4. Hi Malcolm! Nice to "meet" you!

    I have seen that 5.7% number, and I can't figure out where that comes from. I personally believe it is an out-and-out lie, perhaps perpetrated, as you suggest by Rush or another of his despicable ilk.

    The unemployment rate was 5.7% in July 2008, which may have been the month that Obama was either nominated or sewed up the nomination. So perhaps that's how they justified this: The "job creators" saw that Obama was going to win so the big babies packed up all of their marbles and went home, laying off thousands of hard-working Americans in the process. I don't know, but the jobless rate really skyrocketed after the whole Lehmann Bros/AIG/financial meltdown in September 2008.

    If you have any other questions or would like any other jobless number crunching, just leave me a message or contact me via email.

    Thanks again!

  5. I believe the 5.7 number comes from the average of what Bush had during his terms. Republicans use that number and ignore what it was at 4ish when he took office and nearly 8 when Bush left office and the fact that it was increasing rapidly when he left.

  6. I will tell you right now that I believe the true unemployment number in the USA is between 12-15%(this counts illegal aliens) and I believe that I read where California has at least two million unemployed. While I don't blame Obama for GW's last two years in office, I do believe that Obama is the biggest block to hiring and getting companies to hire again.

    Richard in Texas

  7. Richard, what is your definition of the "true unemployment rate"?

  8. What is missing in the BLS numbers are the people who have stopped looking for jobs. BLS only measures by the number of new people who apply for unemployment and the number who are still drawing unemployment. Last month there were more people who applied for Social Security disability then got a job based on the BLS numbers. That fact that there are 2 million fewer people working today then when Obama took office would indicate the depth of the problem. You have to add approximately 300,000 new workers per month to keep up with the people entering the work force.


I appreciate intelligent comments and questions, including those that are at odds with anything posted here. I have elected not to screen comments before they are published; however, any comments that are in any way insulting, caustic, or intentionally inflammatory will be deleted without notice. Spam will also be immediately deleted.