The Slow Agony of the Obama Recovery

The Slow Agony of the Obama Recovery

By Jim Tankersley Updated: July 27, 2012 | 3:18 p.m. 

Under President Obama, America is experiencing one of its weakest recoveries from recession in the modern statistical era. This is the indisputable conclusion from the past three years of job-creation and economic-expansion data, reinforced by Friday’s Commerce Department estimate that gross domestic product grew by just 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year.

This is why surrogates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hammered Obama over the GDP number on Friday morning. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said the figures were the “the latest sign of a failed economic agenda.” Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia University’s business school and Romney’s top economic adviser, called the statistics “very disappointing for the future of the economy.”

How disappointing is this recovery, by historical standards? If you look at postrecession job growth under every president who inherited a recession at the start of his term or within his first year in office, stretching back to Franklin Roosevelt, you’ll only find one president who did worse.

George W. Bush.

Following the brief recession that began and ending in 2001, Bush presided over an economy that grew at a 2.6 percent clip over the next three years. Hubbard, incidentally, was one of Bush’s chief economists at the time. That growth tops the 2.2 percent average growth under Obama in the three years since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. But compared with other modern presidents who battled early term recessions, both rates are anemic.

Check out this comparison of GDP growth under Presidents Roosevelt, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Obama in the first three years after the end of the recessions they each inherited:

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