Editor’s Note: Keith Boykin is a CNN political commentator and a former White House aide to President Bill Clinton. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
“JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”
Those were the words President Donald Trump tweeted on the first Friday in November when the Labor Department reported 261,000 jobs had been created the previous month. The figure was later revised downward to 244,000, but it was still a decent report.
The latest numbers announced Friday by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show 228,000 jobs were created last month. Trump will surely claim credit for this “achievement” as well.
Trump has touted the monthly jobs report numbers repeatedly throughout the year, and especially in the past month. Even on Thanksgiving, Trump tweeted: “HAPPY THANKSGIVING, your Country is starting to do really well. Jobs coming back, highest Stock Market EVER…”
The President also used the jobs number as a justification for his endorsement of accused child molester Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. “Putting Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Puppet Jones into office in Alabama would hurt our great Republican Agenda,” Trump tweeted on Monday. He added: “Look at your 401-k’s since Election. Highest Stock Market EVER! Jobs are roaring back!”
But the reality is much different from the picture the President paints. In fact, it turns out he is a much better salesman than statistician.
The US economy has created 1.9 million jobs so far this year, according to Trump’s own Labor Department. That’s not bad, but during the same period, from January through November of last year, the economy created nearly 2.1 million jobs. Trump took office on January 20, 2017, but even if you remove January from the equation, the numbers still favor Obama. From February to November last year, the economy created 1.96 million jobs. During the same period this year, it created 1.7 million jobs.
Jobs are not “roaring back,” as Trump claims. The job market is actually underperforming compared to last year. Average monthly job growth was 190,000 in the first 11 months of 2016, according to BLS. This year BLS figures show it has fallen to 174,000 per month.
The October 2017 numbers (244,000) from BLS were the strongest in Trump’s presidency so far, and the only time the economy has gained more than 240,000 jobs in any month this year. The numbers may sound impressive when Trump brags about them, but the BLS reports that the economy added more jobs on three occasions (297,000 in June, 291,000 in July and 249,000 in September) last year under Obama.
Despite Trump’s claim in February that he inherited a “mess” from Obama, he actually inherited a stable economy in the midst of the longest streak in history of consecutive monthly job growth, according to MarketWatch. Obama, on the other hand, inherited a failing economy that was losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month after the nearly fatal financial collapse and Bush recession, according to the Labor Department.
Of course, the economy goes up and down in cycles, and it’s debatable how much influence any president can exert to control it. The job market affects real people, from schoolteachers to pipefitters to independent contractors, so this should not be a competition between presidents. The problem is that Trump has made the economy into a contest with his predecessor because of his longstanding disdain for President Obama.
Remember, Trump was campaigning around the country complaining that the economy was a disaster in the summer of 2016 when BLS reported American businesses created 764,000 jobs. But now Trump thinks the economy is roaring after creating only 556,000 jobs this past summer, according to BLS.
Trump never gave credit to Obama for the jobs numbers in 2016. Back then, he claimed the unemployment numbers were “one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics.” Then, after he took office, he instructed former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to change his tune about the Labor Department figures: “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now,” Spicer told reporters in March.
For a president who has passed no major economic legislation to impact the economy, it’s the height of hubris for Trump to take credit for presiding over the continuation of the Obama recovery. But, remember, Trump is first and foremost a salesman.
Even when it comes to the stock market, Trump loses to Obama. No doubt, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed well this year. From January 20, 2017, until the market closed on Thursday, the Dow rose from 19,827 to 24,211, a 4,384 point gain, according to MarketWatch.
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But compare those numbers to Obama’s first year in 2009. The Dow rose from 7,949 on Obama’s Inauguration Day in January 2009 to 10,390 on December 7, a gain of 2,441 points, according to MarketWatch. If you just look at the numbers, it looks like the market performed better under Trump. However, if you look at the percentages, you see the reality. The Dow rose nearly 31% in those first 11 months under Obama and only 22% this year under Trump, the MarketWatch figures show.
Yes, the economy is doing relatively well right now, but based on the numbers, that’s nothing for Trump to brag about.