New jobs data shows 2017 is off to a strong start

It’s increasingly difficult to believe Donald Trump inherited an economic “mess.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February, down just a little from January’s total. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remains low at 4.7%, returning to where it was in December. Last month was the 17th consecutive month the rate has been at 5% or lower.

As for the revisions, December’s job totals were revised down a little, while January’s totals were revised up a little, and combined they show a net gain of 9,000 previously unreported jobs.

If recent political developments are any guide, Trump and his supporters will tout the encouraging jobs data as evidence of his economic prowess. And while everyone should always be glad to see good news, it’s worth noting that these boasts continue to be misplaced. Trump didn’t actually implement any meaningful economic policies in February, and the president’s repeated claims about his accomplishments fall apart under scrutiny.

Indeed, the question for the White House and congressional Republicans remains difficult to answer: how can the job market remain so healthy with all of those nasty Obama-era policies – the Affordable Care Act, environmental protections, Wall Street safeguards, et al – in place? Why are the February 2017 numbers nearly identical to the February 2016 and February 2015 numbers?

Above you’ll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction – red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

Note, I’m inclined to keep January 2017 as blue, since President Obama was in office for most of the month. Looking back, I kept January 2009 as red for the same reason, and I want to be consistent.