A "Help Wanted" sign is posted in the window of an automotive service shop on March 8, 2013 in El Cerrito, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty

The part of the job numbers Team Trump doesn’t want to talk about

Updated

The latest job numbers were released on Friday morning, and they looked quite good. Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has tweeted about the data four times since the employment report was made public.

But Trump’s re-election campaign, which already exists, issued a curious statement about the job numbers, citing the data as “proof” of something specific.

Today Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. trumpeted the new jobs report just released, announcing that 209,000 new jobs were created, on top of revised numbers in June of 231,000 jobs, up from 222,000, as proof that the President has already begun to Make America Great Again.

For now, let’s put aside the debate over whether this administration, which hasn’t implemented any major economic policies, can plausibly claim credit for recent economic news.

Instead, let’s consider the possibility that Trump and his team haven’t looked closely enough at the data they’re so excited about.

For example, in the six full months that Trump has been in office – February 2017 to July 2017 – the economy added 1.07 million jobs. That’s not bad. But over a comparable period last year – February 2016 to July 2016 – the economy added 1.24 million jobs.

For the comparable period the year before – February 2015 to July 2015 – the economy added 1.37 million jobs. For the comparable period the year before that – February 2014 to July 2014 – the economy added 1.51 million jobs. For the comparable period the year before that – February 2013 to July 2013 – the economy added 1.17 million jobs.

In other words, Trump and his Republican allies are impressed that the economy created a million jobs over the first six months of Trump’s presidency. What they don’t appear to realize is that these are the weakest job numbers over the same period in five years.

Perhaps Trump World is specifically impressed with July’s total of 209,000 jobs. And while that’s certainly a good number (which is still subject to revisions), the president and his team also don’t seem to understand that the job totals were even better in July 2016. And July 2015. And July 2014.

OK, but maybe Team Trump believes the six-month job totals is evidence of some kind of economic momentum. That’s a nice try, too, but it’s also wrong: the economy added more jobs the six months before Trump took office. And the six months before that. And the six months before that. And the six months before that. And the six months before that. And the six months before that. (I can keep this going back to 2012.)

My point is not that the first full six months of Trump’s presidency were some kind of disaster for the U.S. economy. That’s plainly not the case. But to see the figures as “proof that the president has already begun to Make America Great Again” is quite silly. The job numbers have been fine, but they’re not as impressive as they were before Trump took office. That’s not a matter of opinion; it’s simply a quantifiable fact.

I suppose “making America nearly as great as it was before I got here” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Donald Trump

The part of the job numbers Team Trump doesn't want to talk about

Updated