Obama vs Trump Economy Chart Template

The state of the economy is always a critical factor during any presidential election. As voters, we pay close attention to the policies and decisions made by each candidate and how they impact the economy. Comparing the economic performance of different presidents allows us to draw conclusions about their effectiveness in managing the economy and shaping its trajectory.

In this blog post, we will delve into the economic performances of the two most recent US presidents: Barack Obama and Donald Trump. By examining key economic indicators and trends during their respective administrations, we can gain insights into the impact of their policies and decision-making on the economy.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Key Economic Indicators
  3. Obama Administration
  4. Trump Administration
  5. Comparison
  6. Conclusion


Before diving into the specifics, let’s establish a baseline understanding of the economic challenges faced by both presidents. Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, amidst the global financial crisis. The economy was in a state of turmoil, with high unemployment rates and a struggling housing market. On the other hand, Donald Trump entered the presidency in 2017, inheriting an economy that had recovered from the depths of the recession but still faced certain challenges.

Key Economic Indicators

When analyzing the performance of any president’s administration, several key economic indicators provide valuable insights:

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  2. Unemployment Rate
  3. Stock Market Performance
  4. Inflation Rate
  5. Income and Wage Growth
  6. Debt and Deficit

These indicators serve as the foundation for evaluating the economic performance of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

Obama Administration

The Obama administration inherited an economy in crisis. Massive government intervention, such as the stimulus package and the bailout of the auto industry, aimed to stabilize the economy and bring it back on track. Over the course of Obama’s presidency, the economy gradually recovered, but skeptics argue that the pace of recovery was too slow.

The GDP growth rate during the Obama administration averaged around 1.6%, with a peak of 2.6% in 2015. While this growth was steady, it fell below historical averages for post-recession recoveries. Critics argue that Obama’s regulatory policies hampered growth, resulting in an underperforming economy compared to previous recoveries.

On the employment front, the unemployment rate under Obama fell from a peak of 10% in 2009 to around 4.7% by the end of his presidency. However, the decline was not evenly distributed across all sectors, and concerns remained about the quality of jobs created. Additionally, labor force participation rates remained relatively low, which critics point to as a sign of underlying weakness in the job market.

The stock market experienced significant growth during the Obama years. The S&P 500 nearly tripled from its 2009 lows by the end of Obama’s presidency. However, it’s important to note that the stock market is influenced by a multitude of factors, including global economic conditions and monetary policy.

It is worth considering that these assessments represent just a snapshot of the Obama administration’s economic performance. For a more in-depth analysis, I recommend referring to The New York Times’ analysis of the Obama administration’s economic policies.

Trump Administration

Donald Trump took office on a platform of stimulating economic growth and prioritizing domestic industries. Several of his hallmark policies included the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and the ongoing trade disputes with China. Trump often touted the success of his administration’s economic policies, claiming that his leadership resulted in unprecedented growth.

The GDP growth rate during the Trump administration experienced both highs and lows. In 2018, the tax cuts resulted in strong growth, reaching 2.9%. However, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 led to a significant contraction in the economy, with a decline of 3.5%. Economic growth was again a topic of debate, with critics arguing that the economy failed to achieve sustainable growth rates in key sectors.

Unemployment rates reached historic lows during the Trump administration, dipping to 3.5% in February 2020 before the pandemic-induced economic downturn. The administration attributed the low unemployment rates to their deregulation efforts and a business-friendly environment. Critics, however, argue that the decline in unemployment was a continuation of trends existing prior to Trump taking office.

Stock market performance during the Trump administration was strong, with the S&P 500 reaching record highs. The administration often highlighted stock market gains as an indicator of economic success. However, similar to previous arguments made about Obama’s administration, it’s important to recognize that the stock market is subject to various external factors.

For a deeper analysis of the Trump administration’s economic policies and performance, I recommend reading this Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on Trump’s economic policies.


Comparing the economic performances of the Obama and Trump administrations can be challenging, as external factors and historical contexts play a significant role. However, some key observations can be made:

Economic Indicator Obama Administration (2009-2017) Trump Administration (2017-2021)
GDP Growth Steady but below historical averages Varied, with peaks and troughs
Unemployment Rate Declined but concerns about job quality Reached historic lows before pandemic
Stock Market Performance Strong growth, nearly tripling Record highs, subject to volatility

These indicators highlight different aspects of the economy and provide a cursory understanding of the divergent economic performances of the two presidents. However, a comprehensive analysis requires a deeper examination of each administration’s policies, regulatory frameworks, and external circumstances.


Comparing economic performances can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of presidential policies. When reviewing the Obama and Trump administrations, it is apparent that both presidents faced unique challenges and inherited economies at different stages. Judging the success of their policies requires a nuanced understanding of the complexity of economic systems and their interdependencies.

As voters, it is crucial to critically analyze the claims made by candidates regarding their economic policies and understand the underlying factors that shape the economy. A well-informed electorate can make decisions based on objective analysis and comprehensive assessments.

For further reading on this topic, I recommend exploring the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics websites, which provide detailed data and analysis on key economic indicators.

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