Over the past 47 years, the unemployment rate, for all races, has ranged between a high of 14.7% in March of this year to a low of 3.5% one month earlier. At 7.9%, the current rate has propelled it into the political discussion as both parties claim to be best at creating jobs. Without a legal statute to compel politicians to be truthful, one might ask, has one party done better at creating jobs than the other?
The truth is in the numbers. In this writing, we will discuss the average unemployment rate, by race, when one party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House, as well as when one controls both sides of Congress and, when a party controls it all.
Using monthly unemployment data over the past 47 years, the average unemployment rate, for all races, has been lower under republicans than it has under democrats. Historically, republicans have been the party of lower taxation and less regulation, both of which provide support economic growth and job creation.
This study analyzed monthly unemployment data from March 1973 through September 2020, a total of 571 months. Additionally, it examined the average unemployment rate for whites, blacks/African Americans, and Hispanic/Latino workers, when one political party held:
1) the presidency
2) the majority in the Senate
3) the majority in the House
4) the majority in the Senate AND the House
5) the presidency plus the majority in the Senate AND the House
NOTE: The results will be presented in this order.
Political Control by the Numbers
Before we get to the numbers, here is the breakdown of the percentage of time either party had control of the White House, the Senate, and the House during this period. Republicans have occupied the White House 58% percent of time while democrats have controlled Congress more than republicans.
1) Average Unemployment: President
The following chart reveals the average rate of unemployment when a republican was president versus a democrat. For example, when a republican occupied the White House, the average rate of unemployment was 5.5% for whites, 11.9% for black/African Americans, and 8.6% for Hispanic/Latinos. The numbers are similar under a democrat president.
Conclusion: Data is inconclusive. No clear winner.
2) Average Unemployment: Control of Senate
When republicans held a majority in the Senate, average unemployment was lower than when democrats had control.
Conclusion: Average rate of unemployment was lower when republicans controlled the Senate.
3) Average Unemployment: Control of House of Representatives
Turning our attention to the House of Representatives, unemployment was lower when republicans held the majority. The margin of difference is greater than it was in the Senate (above).
Conclusion: Average unemployment was lower during a republican-controlled House.
4) Average Unemployment: Control of Congress
What about when one party controlled both houses of Congress? Once again, when republicans held a majority in the Senate and the House, unemployment was lower than when democrats held both houses.
Conclusion: Average unemployment was lower when republicans controlled both sides of Congress.
5) Average Unemployment by Race: Control of Presidency & Congress
The greatest difference is found when republicans held the White House AND both sides of Congress. The following chart has the detail.
Conclusion: Average unemployment was lower when republicans controlled the White House AND Congress.
The previous exhibits show the difference in the average rate of unemployment based on race/ethnicity and the political party in control. The next chart shows the degree of difference. For example, the difference in the average unemployment rate based on the party that held the presidency was inconclusive, ranging from -1% to 3% (left of chart). However, as we follow the chart to the right, we find that the difference in average unemployment is greater when republicans have control. For instance, when republicans had a majority in the House (middle of chart), the difference in the average unemployment rate was between 1.3% and 3.1% for these ethnicities. As republican control expanded, the difference is greater. For example, when republicans held the White House and both sides of Congress (far right of chart), the difference ranged from a low of 2.2% to a high of 4.6%. As all charts show, regardless of the party in control, the rate was consistently higher for non-whites.
This study reveals, except for the office of president, the average rate of unemployment was lower under republican leadership versus democrats. As we looked at republican control of the Senate, then the House, then all of Congress, and finally all of Washington, the difference in the average rate of unemployment increased. According to the data, on the economy and jobs, republicans have the better track record.