In response to Friday’s jobs report, which found the U.S. economy added 209,000 in July, Donald Trump’s re-election campaign argued that the figures are “proof that the president has already begun to Make America Great Again.” That, of course, doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny: job growth since Trump took office is actually down a little, not up.
Which is why it was even stranger yesterday, when the Republican National Committee declared that job growth under Trump – 1 million new jobs from February to July – is “unprecedented.”
Perhaps there’s some confusion as to what “unprecedented” means. Let’s revisit the data we discussed yesterday, showing job growth over comparable periods:
February 2017 to July 2017: 1.07 million jobs
February 2016 to July 2016: 1.24 million jobs.
February 2015 to July 2015: 1.37 million jobs
February 2014 to July 2014: 1.51 million jobs
February 2013 to July 2013: 1.17 million jobs
In fact, you can pick pretty much any six-month period from Barack Obama’s second term and find at least a million new jobs – suggesting the RNC may not fully appreciate the not-so-subtle nuances of the word “unprecedented.”
But wait, we can go a little further down this road.
The Washington Post, generously giving the RNC the benefit of the doubt, thought Republican officials may have meant it was “unprecedented” for a new president to see this much job growth in his first full six months in office. On this front, Trump’s tally would easily exceed Obama’s numbers, since Obama took office in the middle of a global economic crisis in which the economy was hemorrhaging jobs.
But as it turns out, the RNC is still wrong.
Maybe the RNC tweet meant the first six months of a presidency? Even then, though, Bill Clinton saw more jobs created – 1.25 million — in his first six months in 1993. None other than Jimmy Carter saw twice as many created as Trump — 2.14 million — in 1977. And if you adjusted for today’s population size, George H.W. Bush (about 900,000 jobs created in 1989) would also beat Trump’s vaunted 1 million standard.
So three of Trump’s six immediate predecessors had at least his jobs numbers in their first six months (again, population-adjusted in one of those cases). Two others — Obama and George W. Bush — began their presidencies in recessions.
Look, I appreciate the bind Republicans are in. Trump’s public support is faltering; the administration has no meaningful accomplishments; the White House is mired in scandal; and the president and his allies are looking for something positive to bring to the public. They’ve settled on the latest job numbers as the political life-preserver the party needs to remain afloat.
And while that’s understandable, and job creation isn’t bad, lying about the figures won’t make the GOP’s political troubles go away.