At some point Friday, President Trump will probably tweet something celebratory about the June jobs numbers. The number of people who are employed rose by 222,000, beating estimates, and while the unemployment rate rose, that’s in part because more people are looking for work (and therefore the number of people working is smaller relative to the number looking).
More people working is certainly good news. But if Trump’s tweet suggests that this month’s report is uniquely good news — a word of warning. So far, Trump’s economy looks an awful lot like that of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
No kidding, right? It’s only been six months, and the U.S. economy turns a lot more slowly than that outside moments of crisis.
Like the moment at which Obama took office, when jobs numbers were continuing to fall, though at a slower pace than in 2008.
For the first few months of Trump’s administration, the jobs numbers are easily better than those from Obama’s first few months, because Obama’s were totally horrible thanks to the Great Recession. Compared to 2016, though, the gains in employment this year have been basically identical.
We can look at this another way: The average monthly change for each of the past eight years, both in total and year-to-date. The average from January to June of 2017 was 88,400 new jobs added. During that period in 2016, it was 88,200.
Trump’s celebration of the jobs numbers will probably also include a mention of this line from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report: “In June, mining employment grew by 8,000. He may leave out what comes next: “with most of the growth in support activities for mining.” That is, the job growth hasn’t been in actual mining as such.
No matter. Coal mining in particular is one place where Trump’s economy looks different from Obama’s: 2016 was actually worse for the industry in terms of percentage of employment change than the first months of Obama’s administration, a trend that began to reverse in September.
The monthly average reflects a similar trend.
But notice the y-axis on that chart. That’s the average monthly change in thousands — showing that the year-to-date average so far in 2017 has been a gain of about 180 jobs a month.
Coal mining is only a tiny part of the national economy. Much more significant is the health-care industry, also a focus of Trump’s attention albeit for different reasons.
The health-care industry is adding an average of about 36,000 jobs year-to-date, a bit lower than in 2016.
Notice, though, that even in 2009, the industry was still adding employees. It’s one of the few areas where growth has been consistently upward.
On Thursday, Eric Trump appeared on Fox News and suggested that the health of the economy could be seen in the number of people in line at Home Depot. (There are not many Home Depots in Manhattan, but we’ll just go with the analogy.) In other words: Look to construction as a measure of economic success.
After being hammered during the recession, construction jobs have rebounded somewhat, to the president’s son’s point. Growth in the industry is slightly ahead of where it was at this point last year.
The average monthly addition to construction jobs is on par with that of health care — though that’s largely a function of the huge increase from January to February.
After all, construction is a smaller part of the economy than is health care. In fact, it’s significantly smaller than, say, food service. And all of those industries dwarf coal mining.
That’s the context to bear in mind whenever Trump tweets about the economy. We’re adding jobs, good — but not at a particularly unusual pace. More people are going to work in mining, great — but that’s a very small part of the economic picture.
So far, six months in, the economic picture is a familiar one, that looks a lot like Obama’s.
Trump probably won’t tweet that.