Issue of the week: Is Trump already creating jobs?
“Donald Trump once said he was going to be ‘the greatest jobs producer that God ever created,’” said Abby Hamblin in The San Diego Union-Tribune. With last week’s publication of the first full monthly jobs report since he took office, President Trump seems a step closer toward delivering on his epic boast. The labor market improved by almost every measure in February, with the economy adding 235,000 jobs, the unemployment rate dropping from 4.8 percent to 4.7 percent, and average hourly earnings climbing by 6 cents. The White House wasted no time trumpeting the numbers as proof that the president is “making America great again.” Trump has a newfound respect for the jobs report, said Jill Colvin and Christopher Rugaber in the Associated Press. On the campaign trail, he denounced the Labor Department figures as “phony” and a “hoax.” But White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the president has changed his tune. “They may have been phony in the past,” Spicer said. “But they are very real now.”
“Trump did not make the jobs report great again,” said Jordan Weissmann in Slate.com. This month’s report simply continues a seven-year-long trend of steady job growth. In January, the U.S. added 238,000 jobs; in September, 249,000; this time last year, 237,000. Trump is clearly “coasting on a solid economy” left to him by President Obama. As for the ridiculous claim that the old jobs numbers were phony, the Labor Department has changed nothing about its calculations. It normally takes years for policy changes “to wend their way through the economy,” said Neil Irwin in The New York Times, and the president has been in office for barely two months. But Trump’s promises of deregulation and tax cuts have lifted the stock market and boosted business confidence, possibly spurring companies to move forward with hiring plans. “If you think that what really matters is the mood in the executive suite,” then perhaps Trump does deserve some credit for economic gains.
If the president wants praise for the jobs report, “he must also claim its challenges,” said Ana Swanson in The Washington Post. Trump trashed the official unemployment rate while campaigning because it doesn’t factor in people who have given up looking for work entirely. His own math was often wrong: He claimed that more than 90 million Americans can’t find a job, but in that number he included people who don’t want one, like students, retirees, and stay-at-home parents. Still, Trump was getting at something real. Some 78.3 percent of workers ages 25 to 54 are now in the workforce. That ratio shows an improvement since the recession but “is still below peaks seen in the last 25 years.” The working-class voters Trump described as left behind by the global economy “are still largely in the same position.” If Trump is smart, he’ll “refuse to run from the economic problems he spoke so effectively about as a candidate,” said Emily Jashinsky in the Washington Examiner. Trump voters “do not want another politician to gloss over that pain.”