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Did Obama make the economy worse? Not according to most statistics



Over the past two days, Mitt Romney has resurrected this claim hitting President Obama: He has made the economy worse.

Yesterday, when receiving Donald Trump's endorsement, Romney said:

“He’s frequently telling us that he did not cause the recession, and that’s true. But he made it worse.”

And today, according to NBC's Garrett Haake, he said something similar:

"This has been a tough time. And I know the president didn't cause this downturn -- this recession. But he didn't make it better, either. He made it worse. He made it worse because instead of focusing his energy on the economy and getting people back to work, he used his mandate being elected-- he used that to put through a series of programs that he and his base and his friends thought were important but frankly made it harder for our economy to recover. And so we've suffered."

However, most of the economic numbers don't support Romney's claim.

For example, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that the economic stimulus Obama signed into law added -- in the 4th quarter of 2009 -- between 1 million and 2 million employed workers and boosted the GDP between 1.5% to 3.5% higher than it would have been without the stimulus.

In addition, a more recent CBO study -- for the second quarter of 2011 -- found that the stimulus raised real GDP between 0.8% and 2.5% and lowered the unemployment rate between 0.5 and 1.6 percentage points, compared with what would have occurred without it.

And another analysis, by economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi, estimated that the stimulus raised 2010 real GDP by 3.4%, held the unemployment rate about 1.5 percentage points lower, and added nearly 2.7 jobs to U.S. payrolls.

Looking solely at quarterly Gross Domestic Product, it's gone from -6.7% in the first quarter of 2009 and -0.7% in the second quarter of '09, to positive territory ever since -- including 2.8% the past quarter.

And looking at monthly payroll statistics, the numbers have gone from a loss of 818,000 jobs in Jan. 2009 -- when Obama took office -- to 16-straight months of positive job growth, including a preliminary gain of 243,000 jobs in Jan. 2012.

The one metric that might support Romney's claim that Obama made the economy worse is the unemployment rate. When Obama took office, the unemployment rate stood at 7.8%, and it was 8.3% in his first full month as president.

The unemployment rate later rose to a high of 10.0% in Oct. 2009, and it remained at or above 9.0% for all of 2010 and most of 2011. But beginning in the fall of 2011, it began to decline, and it now sits at 8.3% -- the same percentage as it was in his first full month as president, before his policies went into effect.

When First Read reached out to the Romney campaign to provide additional data to support the claim that Obama has made the economy worse, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded: "The economy grew only 1.7% in [all of] 2011, the slowest growth in a non-recession year since the end of World War II. This is worse than growth in 2010 and is worse performance over time."

Also: "In Oct. 2009, 58.51% of the American population had a job. Today, 58.46% of the American population has a job. All that has changed is that fewer Americans are even trying to find a job –- the percentage of Americans in the labor force has declined from 65.0% to 63.7%."

And Saul adds that Obama's economic advisers -- before he took office -- said the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8.0%. And, of course, it still remains above that level.

Interestingly, back in June 2011, Romney used this same Obama-made-the-recession-worse rhetoric. But when NBC asked Romney why he made that claim -- when the data didn't support it -- he replied: "I didn't say that things are worse."

He went on to say:

What I said was that economy hasn't turned around, that you've got 20 million Americans out of work, or seriously unemployed; housing values still going down. You have a crisis of foreclosures in this country. The economy, by the way, if you think the economy is great and going well, be my guest. But the president of the United States, when he put in place his stimulus plan and borrowed $787 billion, said he would hold unemployment below 8% -- and 8% seemed like an awfully high number. It hasn't been below 8% since.  That's failure. We're over 9% unemployment. That's failure. He set the bogie himself at 8% ,which strikes me as a very high number and we're still above that three years later.