Today is Election Day, and since I write primarily about hiring, I wanted to see what correlations there were between politics and hiring.

I went into the research with a scientific mind, with no hypotheses or biases clouding my line of thinking, instead just trying to discover what effect politicians have on the overall employment rate, i.e. hiring. And what I uncovered was a pretty strong correlation: in the past 85 years, when a Democrat was president, the unemployment rate dropped; and when a Republican was president, the unemployment increased (with the one, glaring exception being Ronald Reagan).

Since 1929, there have been seven Republican presidents: Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. All of those presidents saw the unemployment rate rise during their term in office, with the sole exception of Reagan, who saw it drop by an impressive 2.3 percent,according to numbers by Nate Silver, formerly of the New York Times.

Conversely, there have been seven Democratic presidents since 1929: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. All of those presidents saw the unemployment rate drop while they were in office, with the exception of Carter, where the unemployment rate stayed flat, according to those same numbers.

What Does This Mean?

Of course, it is much more complicated than that. For example, when Truman was president, the unemployment rate was artificially low because half the nation was fighting World War II. During Eisenhower’s two terms, the unemployment rate rose, but the economy itself arguably was stronger.

Additionally, it isn’t as if the president has sole control over everything that happens in the government, or more broadly, the country. For example, the unemployment rate has dropped since Obama became president, but it is worth noting that Congress has been controlled by the Republicans since 2010.

Also, it would be unfair to discount Reagan’s term, as he saw the unemployment rate drop by an impressive 2.3 percent during his two-terms in office. Then, the trend resumed, with the unemployment rate increasing under Republican H.W. Bush, dropping under Democrat Clinton, rising under Republican W. Bush and then dropping again under Democrat Obama.

Correlation Between Unemployment Rate And Victory

Another interesting sidebar is that there seems to be little correlation between lowering the unemployment rate and winning re-election. Nixon, for example, saw the unemployment rate increase by nearly 2 percent in his first term, only to defeat his opponent in 1972 by 23 percent, the largest presidential victory since 1936.

So what really matters in winning an election, if not the unemployment rate? The strongest correlation is to incumbency. Since 1933, 11 of the 14 incumbent presidents won their re-election bid (and that includes Ford’s loss in 1976, as he was technically an incumbent, despite take over for Nixon during his second term).


There is more to being a president than the unemployment rate and the president doesn’t have complete control over the unemployment rate, or arguably even much control. A lot of people will also argue that while there is correlation with these numbers, there isn’t causation.

Regardless of all that, here’s the real takeaway: vote today. A lot of people have fought and died defending that right, so the least you can do is take a few minutes out of your day and do your civic duty.

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