He went on to brag about the nation’s economic growth more broadly.
“And we’ve done many other things, as you know. And I won’t go over them because I want to be hearing from you today, but many other things that, frankly, nobody thought possible,” he said. “GDP — 3.2, 3, 3. I think we’re going to have another really big one coming up this current quarter, maybe a number that nobody would have thought would ever be hit.”
This is his central sales pitch for his presidency. He’s the business president, sweeping into Washington to get the economy back on track. And, in typical Trump fashion, it’s the greatest, flashiest turnaround America has ever seen. Like those GDP numbers! Three-point-two percent in the third quarter of 2017. Three-point-one percent in the second. Boom.
On Wednesday, though, a bit of brake-pumping by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, initial estimates put economic growth at 2.6 percent. Initial figures are usually revised, and the fourth quarter’s was, too — down to 2.5 percent.
Two-point-five percent growth is not something that “nobody thought possible.” It’s slightly above the 2.2-percent median since 2001. In general, GDP growth over Trump’s first quarter tracked a smidgen higher than how the country did in 2016, quarter-by-quarter.
As for that growth in the number of employees? Fourth-quarter employment was up a bit over the median, but otherwise the four quarters of Trump’s first year in office looked about the same as every quarter since mid-2012. The caveat of “what they were saying just prior to the election” notwithstanding, the job growth under Trump hasn’t been exceptional.
Nor has the country added 3 million jobs since the election. Using the most generous tally, comparing January employment to October 2016, the country has added 2.7 million jobs. The last time the country didn’t add that many jobs over an equivalent time period prior to Trump was in the period ending in August 2013. At least three million jobs added over that stretch of months was the norm from 2014 through most of 2017.
Trump often cites unemployment as an example of how good his economic policies are faring. On that metric, too, results are mixed. Through the end of 2017, black and Hispanic unemployment (which he likes to brag about) were at or near record lows, following years of general decline. (Unfortunately for Trump’s narrative, the unemployment rate for black Americans spiked in January.)
Trump’s regular bragging about the stock markets, though, is more bulletproof — at least through the end of 2017. In each quarter of the year, the percentage increase in the Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average was above the median.
Due to a sell-off earlier this year, though, the results for 2018 have, so far, been less impressive. The S&P is up 2.6 percent for the year and the Dow up 2.8 percent — only slightly better than the median quarterly growth since 2001.
The economy continues to do well, continuing years-old trends. Trump’s time in office has been one in which, depending on the metric you look at, there’s been generally good improvement — better in the markets than recent years, worse on employment.
Trump’s team often refers to the strong economy as the “Trump miracle.” Sort of undersells the idea of a miracle.