It is unfortunately very far from the real number. There are in fact 96 million Americans age 16 and older who are not in the labor force. Of this, just 5.4 million, or 91 million fewer than the number cited by Trump, say they want a job. The rest are retired, sick, disabled, running their households or going to school. (This number is 256,000 fewer than last year and 1.7 million fewer than the all-time high for the series in 2013.) [...]A more charitable explanation for Trump would expand the number to include those people who are working part time because they can't find full-time work, all the unemployed and those marginally attached to the workforce. This broader measure of slack in the economy, known as the U6, is about 14.7 million. It's the lowest since May 2008, and has come down by nearly 12 million since the worst of the job market effects of the financial crisis in 2010.... If that's what the president-elect means, he's then only off by 82 million.
Towards the beginning of his press conference yesterday, Donald Trump boasted that he's been "quite active ... in an economic way." Taking credit for some recent announcements from auto makers, the president-elect said positive economic news in recent months is the result of the "great spirit" tied to his election."I'm very proud of what we've done," he added.The problem, of course, is that Trump hasn't actually done anything. The jobs he took credit for yesterday had literally nothing to do with him. Either the president-elect doesn't understand that, in which case he's struggling to grasp current events, or he's trying to deceive the public about one of the nation's most important issues.But later in the press conference, Trump made matters worse when he declared there are "96 million really wanting a job and they can't get." Apparently referring to unemployment, he added, "You know that story. The real number -- that's the real number."No, it's not.
As CNBC's report makes clear, this isn't just an academic exercise. If policymakers, starting with an incoming president, don't understand the nature of American unemployment, they won't be able to "get economic and monetary policy right."What's more, Trump has been consistently wrong about unemployment for over a year. I can appreciate the fact that he's an amateur politician, who has no meaningful background in these issues, but he's had several months to learn the basics. It's not even that complicated. For reasons that remain unclear, the president-elect has refused to do his homework.At the same press conference yesterday, Trump went on to declare, "I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created." If he intends to keep that promise, he should probably have someone explain unemployment to him.Postscript: In four years, the number of American adults who are "retired, sick, disabled, running their households or going to school" will almost certainly be at least 96 million. Will Trump, at that point, see himself as a failure or will he decide that number isn't so bad after all?