Despite Trump’s boasts, job growth falls short of expectations

Updated

Yesterday morning, Donald Trump published a curious tweet, declaring, “Really Good Jobs Numbers!” The actual job numbers hadn’t been released, and he hadn’t yet received an advanced look, but the president was apparently referring to an ADP report on private-sector hiring, which often differs from the actual, official data.

He probably should’ve showed some caution. Ahead of this morning’s jobs report, most projections pointed to growth in August of 160,000 jobs. Those expectations were a bit too rosy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the economy added 130,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7%. And while that’s not an awful monthly total, the revisions from the previous two months were also a little disappointing: job totals from June and July were both revised down, subtracting 20,000 from previous reporting.

As for the political implications, Donald Trump has now been in office for 31 full months – February 2017 through August 2019 – and in that time, the economy has created 5.85 million jobs. In the 31 months preceding Trump’s presidency – July 2014 to January 2017 – the economy created 6.84 million jobs.

I recently heard from some readers who asked what would happen if we looked at the same numbers, but assigned the job totals from January 2017 to Trump, even though Obama was president for most of the month. On balance, I think that paints a misleading picture, but it doesn’t change the underlying dynamic: if we applied jobs from January 2017 to Trump and compared the last 32 months to the previous 32 months, job totals still slowed from 7.13 million to 6.10 million.

The White House, meanwhile, believes we should actually start the clock for Trump at November 2016 – the month of the Republican’s election – and apply the jobs created during the final months of the Obama era to the current Republican president. But that still doesn’t help: if we compare the last 34 months to the previous 34 months, job totals slowed from 7.67 million to 6.48 million.

Trump continues to tell the world that he’s overseeing the strongest domestic job growth in American history, which is plainly false. What’s more, the White House has not yet offered an explanation for why job growth has slowed since Trump took office.

Above you’ll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly changes in total jobs since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction: red columns point to monthly changes under the Bush and Trump administrations, while blue columns point to monthly job changes under the Obama administration.

Update: I should also note for context that the 130,000 jobs created in August were inflated a little by Census Department hiring. The private-sector totals were just 96,000 for the month, which is a pretty underwhelming number.