Those who visit the White House’s online homepage right now are greeted with a headline that happens to be true: “Unemployment Falls Below 4 Percent for the First Time Since 2000.” Those who click on the headline are presented with an impressive boast:
The national unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent, the first time it has fallen below 4 percent since the year 2000 and well below the pre-recession average of 5.3 percent. […]
WHY: President Donald J. Trump’s historic tax cuts, deregulation, and pro-growth policies are creating jobs and restoring confidence in America’s economy.
There are a few relevant angles to this. First, a 3.9% unemployment rate is great news for the country and American workers, though the metric does come with some caveats. For example, the rate’s most recent drop was the result of discouraging developments, not encouraging ones.
Second, and more important, is the fact that Trump claiming credit for the news is a stretch. This is a great example of someone being born on third base and thinking they hit a triple: the jobless rate has been steadily declining since President Obama ended the Great Recession in his first term. It’s great that the trend has continued over the year and a half Trump has been in office, but no one should try to make the case that the Republicans’ tax breaks and deregulation crusade are somehow responsible for creating the trend that began in 2010.
Or put another way, looking at the above chart, Trump would have Americans believe he deserves credit for the red line, but his predecessor deserves no credit for the blue line. It’s a tough sell.
Indeed, if Trump were right, and his tax and deregulation plans were chiefly responsible for good economic news, he’d have to explain why job growth has been slower under his presidency than under most of Obama’s second term.
And finally, whenever this president brings up the unemployment rate, I’m reminded of campaign rhetoric on this subject. Indeed, just months before Election Day 2016, with the unemployment rate dropping below 5% for the first time in years, Trump insisted that the public not believe it.
The then-candidate argued, “We have a real unemployment rate that’s probably 21%.” A few seconds later, Trump added, “If you start adding it up, our real unemployment rate is 42%.”
As we discussed at the time, the rhetoric was obviously foolish, but it’s especially notable two years later. Does Trump still make a distinction between the official unemployment rate and what he considers the “real” unemployment rate?