Polling consistently shows that, while Americans remain generally skeptical of President Trump’s job performance, they give him good marks on his handling of the economy. It’s a bright spot for the president and one that he clearly feels plays well to his strengths. He’s the business guy, after all, and a strong economy was central to his election in 2016.
And, his campaign feels, to his reelection next year. But there’s a pesky, nagging concern about the economy: Many of the successes that Trump celebrates are ones that compare to or follow from what his predecessor, Barack Obama, saw during his administration.
So we get tweets like this one, from a social media account affiliated with the president.
Unfortunately for them, those FACTS are a little bit misleading.
They’re not wrong, mind you. They just don’t really tell the whole story. Here, for example, is that average monthly increase in the number of jobs added to the economy under each president. Trump’s average has been 202,000, while Obama’s was 110,000.
But Obama also came into office as the economy was collapsing. So during his first term in office, the average number of jobs created was 5,000 a month — essentially breaking over those four years. In his second term, job growth was much better, at an average of 216,000 a month.
You’ll notice that this is higher than the average under Trump.
During Trump’s first term in office, we pointed out that a lot of the trends that the economy had been seeing were continuations of what the country experienced under Obama. We made an interactive asking readers to try to identify the point at which Trump or Obama took office.
It looked like the chart below. Just click the line where you think Trump took office.
It’s not that easy, is it? Just somewhere along that steady upward trend.
So let’s go back to the tweet from Team Trump. They next touted the average unemployment rate under Obama and Trump. Again, it’s true that the average under Obama was 7.4 percent and that Trump’s averaged 4.1 percent.
And, again, that skips over the fact that the unemployment rate was sliding downward during Obama’s administration. His first term saw much higher unemployment rates.
And, again, we can illustrate that with one of our interactives. (Make sure you notice which president is being asked about!)
Team Trump then hypes the change in manufacturing employment. A drop under Obama and a gain under Trump.
That drop under Obama is a function of his first term in office. Manufacturing jobs are increasing faster under Trump than they did during Obama’s second term, but they increased significantly during Obama’s second term in office.
Can you tell where each president took over?
We can do the same exercise with other economic metrics that Trump likes to talk about. Like the black unemployment rate, as below.
The point is not that Obama deserves credit for every aspect of the economy forever. The point, instead, is that Trump’s comparisons between the economy during his presidency and the economy during Obama’s generally focus an awful lot on Obama’s first few years in office, when the country was rebounding from the economic crisis that began before Obama took office.
Over the weekend, Trump retweeted Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel.
Don’t let Democrats stop the progress? Fair enough. But it’s worth pointing out that many of Trump’s favorite metrics are themselves continuations of progress he inherited.