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Job numbers bounce back in November (but there's a small asterisk)

Ahead of this morning's jobs report, most projections pointed to growth in November in the ballpark of 180,000. It looks like they understated matters.

Ahead of this morning's jobs report, most projections pointed to growth in November in the ballpark of 180,000, in part because of the effects of the General Motors strike. It looks like those expectations understated matters.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the economy added 266,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate inched down a little to 3.5%. Fortunately, the revisions from September and October were also revised up, adding 41,000 jobs from previous reporting.

These are, to be sure, very encouraging figures, though as the New York Times noted this morning, ahead of the report's release, the jump in hiring "will not be as big as the report's totals might suggest. Nearly 50,000 striking workers at General Motors returned to their jobs last month. Their six-week walkout meant that they were not included in the government's October surveys. Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton, said the job creation numbers could be further inflated by another 12,000 workers at auto suppliers and related businesses, who were also not working because of the G.M. strike and have now been rehired."

Still, even accounting for the GM angle, November's job report is very encouraging and points to a healthy, stable job market.

As for the political implications, Donald Trump has now been in office for 34 full months -- February 2017 through November 2019 -- and in that time, the economy has created 6.56 million jobs. In the 34 months preceding Trump's presidency -- April 2014 to January 2017 -- the economy created 7.71 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 35 months to the previous 35 months, job totals still slowed from 7.88 million to 6.81 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 37 months to the previous 37 months, job totals slowed from 8.23 million to 7.19 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.