trump-obama-workforce.jpgOn Tuesday night, one of the most controversial and emotionally charged elections came to a close. Republican nominee Donald J. Trump emerged victorious as the nation’s new president elect. The policies of the past eight years will likely change, some dramatically, if Mr. Trump can carry through on the promises he extended to his base. And even though a president’s primary role is to command the country’s military, his influence over Congress, and ability to implement certain executive orders, place him in a pivotal role to help shape legislative, economic and regulatory policies. Ultimately, those outcomes will set the course for the U.S. workforce in the coming years. Let’s take a look back at President Obama’s employment legacy and how the positions of President Elect Trump could sustain or alter it for tomorrow’s contingent workforce programs.

President Obama’s Workforce Legacy

When Barack Obama entered the White House in 2008, the Great Recession had already erupted. That November alone, the United States watched 750,000 jobs vanish. The new president quickly introduced stimulus packages and worked tirelessly with Congress to stanch the hemorrhaging. Despite those efforts, another year would pass before unemployment rates fell to 10 percent.

Flash forward to October 2016. The labor market has stabilized substantially, appearing as healthy as it was prior to the recession. The country is enjoying close to full employment. Work has become easier to find. Productivity has increased greatly; however middle-class salaries remain fairly flat.

“The deficit has shrunk by nearly $1 trillion, and Medicare’s long-term solvency has been extended by 13 years,” writes Michael Grunwald in Politico Magazine, outlining Obama’s other accomplishments. “The resuscitated auto industry produced 11 million vehicles in 2014. Federal contractors can no longer discriminate against gays, women can now serve in combat and the rich are paying higher taxes. A new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is policing unscrupulous mortgage brokers, payday lenders and other rip-off artists, and the financial system has much less risky leverage.”

To summarize Obama’s legacy of economic and employment performance, here is list collected by Since President Barack Obama first took office:

  • The economy has added more than 10 million jobs, and job openings are at a 15-year high.
  • The unemployment rate has dropped well below the historical norm, although long-term unemployment remains higher than at the start of the Great Recession.
  • The buying power of the average worker’s weekly paycheck is up 4.4 percent.
  • Corporate profits are running 152 percent higher, and stock prices have soared.
  • Federal debt has more than doubled, and annual deficits, after shrinking, are again on the rise.
  • Oil imports are down 53 percent, and wind and solar power have quadrupled.
  • The number of people lacking health insurance has gone down by 15.2 million.
  • The labor force participation rate dropped by 3 percent and long-term unemployment figures remain higher than before the economic downturn.

Obama’s reformations in environmental programs and affordable health care are seen as boons and banes. Healthier workers demonstrate higher levels of productivity and morale. Fewer illnesses equate to less disruptions and costs to employers. However, many businesses struggled to contain costs and maintain margins in complying with the ACA’s mandates.

By investing in alternative energy, the Obama administration helped curb pollutants and create countless new jobs in a developing industry. However, the imposed regulations made it difficult for traditional energy producers to operate at profit.

Perhaps the outgoing president’s biggest workforce legacy comes from his advocacy for employees. While in office, Obama signed hundreds of bills into law. Among them was The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which paved the way for pay parity. He also fought to overturn employment rules that restricted the rights of minorities and LGBTQ people. Yet the concern, even among HR professionals, was that those policies arose from executive orders that created new regulations within the Department of Labor (DOL), such as revised overtime rules. Not all business professionals found the changes favorable.

As Carol Patton observed in her piece for Human Resource Executive Online, “Among the DOL actions that HR professionals may remember most is that administrative interpretations were written without asking questions or soliciting advice from private-sector employers or HR professionals.”

President Elect Trump and the Future Workforce

During his acceptance speech in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, President Elect Trump vowed to be “a president for all Americans.”

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds,” he continued. “It is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time.”

As a business person, rather than a career politician, Trump centered on economic issues during his candidacy. Let’s see what his proposed policies could mean for contingent workforce program leaders and corporate decision makers over the next four years.


Trump has repeatedly pledged to reduce taxes in an effort to spur economic growth. Trump seeks to streamline the seven existing tax brackets by consolidating them into three. All businesses, regardless of size, would enjoy a flat tax rate of 15 percent. He believes this will incentivize companies to operate in the United States primarily, bringing their offshored work back into the country.

Speaking to members of the New York Economic Club while campaigning, Trump said: “One of our greatest job creation measures is going to be our 15% business tax rate – down from the current 35% rate, a reduction of more than 40%. An explosion of new business and new jobs will be created. It will be amazing to watch.”

Environmental Deregulation

Despite the job growth that Obama fostered by pushing for the expansion of clean energy industries, Trump has stated that his administration will relax the tight rules of policies like the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Instead, Trump wants to strengthen the country’s domestic production of oil, coal and gas to reduce our dependence on foreign interests.

The president elect estimates that these efforts will create half a million new jobs annually over a seven-year period, with cumulative wage increases exceeding $30 billion.

Overseas Trade

Trump has consistently vowed to increase domestic manufacturing, curtail incentives for companies to move operations overseas and extend tax breaks for business owners. During his many speeches, he regularly defined his strategy by these objectives:

  • Negotiating fair trade deals to limit offshoring and produce more in-country jobs for U.S. workers.
  • Driving down the existing trade deficit and enhancing domestic production.
  • Cutting taxes on businesses to facilitate the ease of selling U.S. goods in foreign markets.
  • Replacing the politicians currently in charge of employment policies with experienced business leaders who are “jobs-creation experts.”

Federal Minimum Wage

Donald Trump’s representatives have on multiple occasions explained that he favors an increase in basic earnings. Trump’s proposal would raise the federal minimum wage up to $10 an hour. He also endorses any state’s right to set higher amounts.

During the Obama administration, certain states and cities instituted mandatory and employer-paid sick leave — even extending to contract labor. For many contingent workforce leaders, this policy has caused confusion and additional financial constraints.

Donald Trump’s initiative includes six weeks of paid family and medical leave. It applies to mothers following childbirth, and would activate only when employers failed to offer an equivalent time-off policy of their own. Funding for the program would come from unemployment insurance. Trump has also hinted at repealing the Affordable Care Act, yet he has not conclusively rendered a decision or suggested an alternate course of action.

Repealing New Overtime Rules

In May, the government revised the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to make an additional 4.2 million employees eligible to receive overtime pay. This issue, too, has polarized business leaders. Mrs. Clinton supports the amendment to FLSA.

Mr. Trump argues against the revision, stating that increasing salaries to meet the $47,476 threshold will negatively impact small business owners. He cites data provided to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) by the National Federation of Independent Business. Trump would work to create exemptions in FLSA to ease the burden he sees on small businesses.

The Next Four Years

In many ways, according to business owners, Trump’s conservative and corporate-friendly agenda may prove to be a benefit for contingent workforce leaders and traditional employers. If his reforms to domestic trade, government intervention in labor policies and employer-sponsored benefits take hold, staffing companies and MSPs may see a return of higher margins. Some believe that scaling back on employer mandates could lead to greater gains for all. Others disagree and favor the existing policies.

All of that said, both Trump and Mike Pence, his vice president, have clearly insinuated that they may roll back policies that protect diversity workers. For example, Pence has spoken several times about repealing some federal protections for LGBTQ people. While changes of this nature are currently theoretical, it should remain our goal, as historic champions of diversity, to see that we continue to drive inclusion efforts for the benefit of our talent and the innovations they fuel in our client companies.