President Trump began his day Monday with a blizzard of tweets, some original, some retweets of supporters offering pro-Trump or anti-Trump-opponent messages. Those retweets were unusual; he doesn't often retweet people. The original tweets, though, weren't unusual, because several were misleading or false.
Consider, in particular, this tweet.
We can start by noting that this is an odd comparison. Trump is matching the quarterly change in the gross domestic product — 4.2 percent — with the unemployment rate. One is a rate of change; one is a metric, which is a bit like saying the Chicago Bears are doing better than the Green Bay Packers because their score increased 100 percent from the second to third quarters while the Packers have only 75 percent of the points.
But also, one is for the second quarter of the year while the other is from August — two periods that don't overlap. Had Trump used unemployment rates from the second quarter, the point still would have been valid: The rates in April through June were below 4.2 percent. That may not hold, though. The GDP rate will still be revised one more time before it is finalized. If it is revised down to 4 percent, it will not be higher than the June unemployment rate.
For whatever that's worth! But also: Trump is completely wrong about how rare this is.
Here is the change in GDP, compared with the unemployment rate in each month since the end of World War II. It's not going back a century, but, as you'll see, it doesn't matter.
We're looking for places where the light blue bars extend above the dark blue line. If Trump is correct, that happens only in the most recent quarter. Do you see anywhere else that it happens?
Here, let's highlight those places where it happens.
In fact, not only has it been less than a century since the rate of change in the GDP has been higher than the unemployment rate, it has been only 12 years. It happened in 2006, under President George W. Bush. Out of the 282 full quarters since 1948, the rate of change in the GDP has topped the unemployment rate 64 times, or more than a quarter of the time. So 64 times in the past 70 years. Not quite the same as once in a century. Granted, it hasn't happened much recently — but there was that giant recession shortly after the last time it happened.
Trump also offered another GDP-related observation Monday morning.
Again: GDP, the gross domestic product of the United States, measured in dollars, is not what Trump is talking about here. But also he's desperately cherry-picking the data. The rate of change in GDP was less than 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, but was just less than 2 percent at the end of 2016. It was the same in Trump's first quarter as president. As we reported Friday, the effect of the tax cuts on the economy has been hard to measure on many metrics. But given that the trends Trump celebrates most — a declining unemployment rate, increasing stock valuations — all began under his predecessor, it's hard to see why they would suddenly have reversed under another Democrat.
But Trump had a retweet covering that, too.
Trump's ensuing tweets addressed TV coverage of Bob Woodward's new book about his presidency.
Update: Later in the morning, Trump expanded on his thoughts about GDP growth.
The only reference we can find to Obama having wondered if Trump had a magic wand was during a 2016 PBS NewsHour town-hall event.
Talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the country, Obama said, “He just says, ‘I’m gonna negotiate a better deal.’ Well, how? How exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is, he doesn’t have an answer."
Others have been openly skeptical about Trump's pledge to hit 4 percent growth — which is meant on an annual basis, not a quarterly one. The country hit 4 percent quarterly growth four times under Obama, including quarters of 4.9 percent and 5.1 percent growth. The country's 4.2 percent growth in one quarter doesn't mean it's on track for 4 percent growth annually.