Last 2 Presidential Terms Were Worst for Economic Growth Since WWII

By Matt Cover | January 31, 2013 | 12:19 PM EST

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - The last two presidential terms—George W. Bush’s second and Barack Obama’s first—saw the worst economic growth of any presidential terms since World War II.

During Bush’s second term, real Gross Domestic Product grew only 4 percent, which was the weakest economic growth for any four-year presidential term since Truman was elected, in 1948, to the first fully post-World War II presidential term. During Obama’s first term, real GDP grew only 5.9 percent, the second weakest economic growth for any presidential term since WWII.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which dates recessions, the last recession began in December of 2007 and ended in June 2009. The NBER says a recession begins when growth has peaked and the nation begins to experience declining economic activity. A recession ends and an expansion begins when economic activity hits a trough and starts back up again. Thus, the last recession has been over, and the U.S. has been in an expansion period, for the last three and a half years.

Despite this, GDP declined by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Using historical data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), calculated how much real GDP grew for each four-year presidential term since 1948, which is the earliest year for which the BEA has published the inflation-adjusted quarterly GDP. For George W. Bush’s second term, for example, calculated the inflation-adjusted growth in GDP from the end of the fourth quarter of 2004 to the end of the fourth quarter of 2008. For Obama’s first term, calculated the growth from the end of the fourth quarter of 2008 to the end of the fourth quarter of 2012.

The 16 post-WWII presidential terms ranked by worst economic growth:

1. George W. Bush 2004-2008 - 4.0 percent

2. Barack Obama 2008-2012 - 5.9 percent.

3. Dwight Eisenhower 1956-1960 – 8.4 percent

4. George H.W. Bush 1988-1992 – 8.8 percent

5. Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford 1972-1976 – 9.2 percent

6. George W. Bush 2000-2004 – 9.4 percent

7. Dwight Eisenhower 1952-1956 – 12 percent

8. Jimmy Carter 1976-1980 – 13.3 percent

9. Ronald Reagan 1980-1984 – 13.5 percent

10. Richard Nixon 1968-1972 – 13.8 percent

11. Bill Clinton 1992-1996 – 14 percent

12. Ronald Reagan 1984-1988 – 15.8 percent

13. Bill Clinton 1996-2000 – 18.2 percent

14. Lyndon Johnson 1964-1968 – 21.8 percent

15. John F. Kennedy/LBJ 1960-1964 – 22.5 percent

16. Harry Truman 1948-1952 – 23.4 percent