Just two days ago, Donald Trump called into Fox News' morning show to assure the public that the economy is rapidly improving. Looking ahead to the latest monthly jobs report, the president said, "[Y]ou'll have a big number on Friday," though he quickly added, "I don't know what it's going to be."
It's against this backdrop that the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a new report on July's job totals, and they weren't nearly as "big" as the White House probably hoped.
Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 1.8 million in July, and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor market reflected the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it.
We're obviously dealing with extraordinary circumstances, starting with the economy shedding over 22 million jobs in March and April. The job market started a long crawl back soon after, adding 2.7 million jobs in May and nearly 4.8 million June.
It seems Trump assumed this would be the start of an accelerating trend. It wasn't. As Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America, told the New York Times this week, "The easy hiring that was done in May and June has been exhausted."
The problem is not that 1.8 million is some kind of disaster. In fact, these new figures are slightly better than projections headed into this morning.
Rather, the trouble is the depth of the hole we're in after the job losses from the spring, and the challenge of climbing back to where we were.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, talks between the Trump administration and congressional Democratic leaders have been halting in recent weeks, and there was some speculation that if today's jobs report was dreadful, it might light a fire under negotiators to help them reach an agreement. Looking at the data, that now seems unlikely.
As for the image above, the chart shows GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began. The red columns show the economy under the Bush and Trump administrations; the blue columns show the economy under the Obama administration.