Job growth cooled a little as 2019 came to a close

Ahead of today's jobs report, most projections pointed to growth in December in the ballpark of 160,000. We didn't quite reach those expectations.
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By Steve Benen

Ahead of this morning's jobs report, most projections pointed to growth in December in the ballpark of 160,000. It looks like we didn't quite reach those expectations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the economy added 140,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5%. The monthly totals were rising in the latter half of the year, but December's tally was the lowest since May., Unfortunately, the revisions from October and November were also revised down a little, subtracting 14,000 jobs from previous reporting.

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The overall totals from 2019 will still face one additional revision, but for now, it appears the nation added 2.11 million jobs for the calendar year, which represents a fairly good year, though it's a rather significant drop off from last year's totals, and far short of the more robust gains Americans saw in 2014 and 2015.

As for the political implications, Donald Trump has now been in office for 35 full months -- February 2017 through December 2019 -- and in that time, the economy has created 6.69 million jobs. In the 35 months preceding Trump's presidency -- March 2014 to January 2017 -- the economy created 7.96 million jobs.

As regular readers know, 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 36 months to the previous 36 months, job totals still slowed from 8.05 million to 6.94 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 38 months to the previous 38 months, job totals slowed from 8.42 million to 7.33 million.

Trump continues to tell the world that he's overseeing the strongest domestic job growth in American history, which is plainly false. What's more, the White House has not yet offered an explanation for why job growth has slowed since Trump took office.

Above you'll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly changes in total jobs since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction: red columns point to monthly changes under the Bush and Trump administrations, while blue columns point to monthly job changes under the Obama administration.

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