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CNN Fact Check: Clinton arithmetic holds up on jobs

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Fri September 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Clinton says Democratic administrations produce more private-sector jobs
  • Federal statistics show his numbers are a bit off, but not substantially
  • GOP terms were hit more by recessions, while population growth may have helped Dems

(CNN) -- It was a big applause line, one of many for former President Bill Clinton Wednesday night.

Speaking to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Clinton -- whose presidency unfolded during a boom era for the U.S. economy -- told delegates that Democratic administrations had a nearly 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans in creating jobs.

"Since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24," Clinton said. "In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what's the job score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42."

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Since Clinton repeatedly invoked "arithmetic" as the secret to his administration's success, we thought we'd check his.

The facts:

Clinton's math is a bit off, but not substantially.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures examined by CNN, he understated the net number of private jobs created under Democratic administrations and overstated the number of jobs created in GOP eras. But the ratio is basically correct: A net increase of 44.7 million jobs created during the Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Obama administrations, compared to a 23.3 million figure during the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bush administrations.

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Republican numbers were crimped by recessions that occurred more frequently during their administrations -- in 1969 and 1973, 1981, 1990, 2001 and 2007. The only recession to occur during a Democratic presidency was in early 1980, during the Carter administration, while the 2007 recession lasted nearly six months into the Obama administration. Democrats, meanwhile, were also helped by population growth: A bigger country should produce more jobs, and Democrats have held office for nearly 12 of the past 20 years.

Conclusion:

Economists constantly argue over which presidents get the credit or the blame for what happened on their watches, of course. But in terms of the numbers Clinton cited, his claim is remarkably close, and the discrepancy doesn't contradict his argument.

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CNN's Matt Smith, Caitlin Stark and Tom Foreman contributed to this report.

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