Americans will have to wait until tonight—or likely longer—to find out the results of the election. But when it comes to which administration some experts believe will create more jobs, there’s already a winner.
According to a forecast by Moody’s Analytics, a Biden administration would bring the American job market back to pre-COVID-19 levels sooner than President Trump. The speed of that recovery, however, would depend on whether Democrats also emerge from Tuesday’s election with a majority of seats in the Senate.
The Moody’s study considered the four most likely election outcomes: Democrats winning the White House but not the Senate, Democrats winning the House, Senate, and presidency, Republicans maintaining the status quo, and a Republican sweep.
“Under a Democratic sweep, employment reaches levels we last saw prior to the coronavirus in mid-to-late 2022, whereas if we were looking at Biden and a split Congress, you don’t see the economy hitting pre-COVID levels until late 2023,” explains Bernard Yaros, an economist at Moody’s Analytics and coauthor of the study. “It would be probably another year later, in 2024, under a Republican sweep or Trump with a split congress.”
Those results were echoed in a similar study by Oxford Economics. A poll of Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) by PwC also found that business leaders were more likely to increase their headcount in the next 12 months should Biden win the presidency.
CHROs Anticipate More Hiring Under Biden
No matter how they feel about the candidates, employers have expressed more confidence in increasing their headcounts in the next 12 months under a Biden presidency. In the recent study by PwC, 42% expected to add to their staff in the next 12 months should Trump win reelection, compared with 72% who would increase hiring if Biden were to take office.
According to the study’s lead author and co-leader of PwC people and organizations, Bhushan Sethi, employer confidence in 2021 will largely depend on the country’s ability to manage the ongoing pandemic.
“That’s a challenge to consumer confidence and risk appetite, so it’s inextricably linked with this situation,” he says. “The confidence [to hire] is really going to change when people are comfortable going out and consuming and engaging in the practices we engaged in pre-pandemic.”
According to the latest polling data by FireThirtyEight, nearly 60% disapprove of Trump’s response to the pandemic. “Confidence [in leadership] is a really important part of reopening the economy, and it impacts consumer behaviors,” adds Sethi
Trade, stimulus, and immigration
According to Yaros, there are three major policy distinctions that would impact employment in the coming years: tariffs, stimulus, and immigration.
Yaros explains that Trump’s trade wars have increased the cost of goods and raw materials from China and other trade partners. Those higher price tags take money out of consumers’ pockets, not unlike a tax increase. “[Biden] would still be tough on China, but he wouldn’t ratchet up the tariff war with them or with any other country with whom the U.S. is running a trade deficit,” he says. “So you don’t get those tariffs that act as tax increase on consumers, which have negative effects on consumption, which accounts for the vast majority of the economy.”
Yaros adds that while the Republican-led Senate has been hesitant to offer economic relief in the form of stimulus spending, a Democratic Senate would inject trillions into the economy, expediting the recovery. “Biden is proposing more than $7 trillion in spending, which is offset by $4 trillion in tax hikes, but if you take the net of the two that’s still more than $3 trillion in net stimulus, which is really what propels our projection for the economy under a Democratic sweep,” he says.
A third contributor to job growth under a Democratic president is the party’s starkly different stance on immigration, which Yaros says is vital to economic growth in an aging population. “This generation of Baby Boomers is exiting the labor force, so you have fewer taxpaying workers, and to fill in that gap you need young immigrants coming in, working, paying taxes, and generating economic activity,” he says. “Trump has taken a highly restrictive stance on immigration, and that really weighs on the economy by reducing the supply of labor, which is really important for potential GDP growth.”
Many Republicans maintain that immigration has a net-negative impact on American job growth, suggesting that foreign workers replace domestic ones, but economists say the numbers don’t back up that theory. According to Oxford Economics’ chief U.S. economist, Gregory Daco, foreign workers are necessary to replace taxpayers that retire out of the workforce.
“If you look at the broad research on immigration, it’s generally pretty conclusive that while there are indeed some substitution effects, there is also a very important complimentary effect of boosting economic activity more than constraining it,” he says.
Climate, Tax, and Family Policy
Another key area of distinction between the two parties is their differing approach to climate change. While Trump sees climate regulations as having a negative impact on employment, green jobs could help stimulate employment, says Yaros.
“A lot of [Biden’s] clean energy policies really have to do with physical investments in infrastructure—whether it’s retrofitting manufacturing plants, building more charging stations for electric vehicles, and upgrading infrastructure to conserve energy and reduce waste of energy—this is all stimulative economic activity,” says Yaros.
Yaros adds that Biden’s proposed policies to support working families could have a positive effect on job growth as well. “That will help lift labor force participation, because there’s a lot of people who aren’t in the workforce earning money, because they have to take care of children or the elderly,” he says.
Another significant contributor to economic activity is tax policy. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was touted by President Trump as economic “rocket fuel,” but three years later analysts find the majority of benefits went to corporations and top earners. A 2019 study by Business Insider found that the tax cuts had little impact on job growth and earnings for average workers. Biden, by contrast, has proposed a tax hike on those earning more than $400,000 per year.
Daco says that changes in tax rates for the wealthy have little impact on overall economic activity compared to lower-wage earners.”The lower-income family will spend that dollar fast; the higher-income family will tend to preserve that money, because it’s not a game changer in terms of their general income stream,” he says. “In an environment in which you raise taxes on the wealthiest individuals—especially the top 1% or 0.1% of the population—the marginal effect on spending is very small.”
The Impact on Union Jobs
Union member support was key to Trump’s 2016 victory, but Biden has picked up a number of key endorsements in recent days. The International Association of Fire Fighters, for example, didn’t endorse a candidate in 2016 because, according to spokesman Doug Stern, there was no clear choice. This time around, the union has put its support behind the Democratic challenger. “Joe Biden has never been afraid to say the word ‘union,'” he says. “He has stepped up, time and time again, to support working men and women.”
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten believes unionized jobs would increase under a Biden administration, but will continue to deteriorate under Trump. “Trump and [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell refused to negotiate a stimulus, which means there’ll be huge layoffs for teachers,” she says. “The lack of stimulus for state and local governments and schools will create a predicted 1.4 million layoffs of educators and professionals in the school community.”
A Contested Election Could Impact Employment
Many fear the prospect of a drawn-out or contested election. Not knowing the winner of the presidential race for a few days will have little impact on long-term hiring, but economists warn long delays could negatively impact employment opportunities in the coming months.”Businesses hate uncertainty,” explains Sethi.
Daco agrees, adding that a contested election or a refusal to engage in the peaceful transfer of power would put the United States in completely uncharted territory, a situation that could have dramatic implications for the economy, and by extension, the job market.
“That uncertainty is quite worrisome,” he says. “While markets have priced in the possibility of not having results on election night, or the day after, I don’t think we’ve seen them price in the potential for a prolonged period of election uncertainty, or a non-peaceful transfer of power.”
According to Daco, the longer that uncertainty lasts, the greater the economic impact. “If you have an environment where you don’t know the results for months, and you have heightened financial market volatility as a result, businesses will react accordingly, and businesses will pull back on investment and hiring decisions.”