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Admin can't explain why US job growth has slowed under Trump

Just once, I'd like to hear someone from the administration explain why American job growth has slowed since Donald Trump took office.
Image: Steve Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks on regulatory issues associated with crypto currency in the briefing room at the White House on July 15, 2019.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images file

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was on Capitol Hill yesterday, appearing for a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the new White House budget, and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) kicked off the discussion by praising Donald Trump's record on job creation.

Soon after, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) asked a question of the cabinet secretary that too often goes overlooked:

"Let's talk about jobs. President Trump claimed he would be 'the greatest jobs president that God ever created,' and has repeatedly criticized President Obama's jobs record. Let's compare the last three years of the Obama presidency to the first three years of the Trump presidency. Can you guess who created more jobs?"

Even if Mnuchin knew the correct answer, he probably realized that if he acknowledged the truth during an open hearing, Trump likely would've fired him. And so the Treasury secretary said he didn't "have the numbers" in front of him.

Naturally, the New Jersey Democrat presented the data Mnuchin said he didn't have.

The information probably didn't come as a surprise to regular readers. As we discussed after the release of the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trump has now been in office for three full years (36 months), and during that time, the economy has created 6.56 million jobs. In the final full three years of Obama's presidency, the economy created 8.08 million jobs.

Some have 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 37 months to the previous 37 months, job totals still slowed from 8.14 million to 6.74 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 39 months to the previous 39 months, job totals slowed from 8.68 million to 7.13 million.

Taking this one step further, job growth in 2019 -- a year in which Trump said the economy had reached heights unseen in American history -- fell to an eight-year low.

What's more, the best year for jobs during Trump's presidency -- 2.31 million in 2018 -- fails to reach the job growth in any of the three final years of Barack Obama's presidency. It adds a degree of irony to his rhetorical record: Trump ran for president in 2015 and 2016, telling the nation that the economy was horrible and he'd make it vastly better. But annual job growth totals from both 2015 and 2016 were better than any year of the Republican's tenure, at least so far.

What I'm eager to hear from any Republican -- in the White House, in Congress, in a federal cabinet agency -- is why they think this happened. For his part, Mnuchin didn't address the issue yesterday.