If you’re curious, the break occurs here:
This year, the economy has added an average of about 179,000 jobs a month, about what it added in 2017. In 2018, it added about 223,000 jobs a month, a bit under what it added in 2015 and well under the 251,000 added a month in 2014. In 2016, the figure was in the middle, about 193,000.
Attributing shifts in employment to presidents is a fraught endeavor, but one that presidents and their allies are always eager to do when the jobs numbers are good. (When the numbers are less good, of course, distancing the president from the data becomes a lot more common.) But it is the case that Trump has taken an active role in promoting some industries — such as coal mining and manufacturing — as policies such as tariffs have at times had an outsize effect on some industry sectors.
With that in mind and with the three-year anniversary of Trump’s presidency approaching, we decided to look again at how job growth has changed by sector since 2017.
We can immediately see one of the reasons that the November jobs report was as robust as it was: a surge in manufacturing jobs, specifically in vehicle manufacturing. That reflects the end of the autoworkers’ strike, which brought more than 40,000 people back to work. (Even without that surge, mind you, the November number was good, above average for the year.)
But over the course of 2019, manufacturing job growth has been mostly flat. The same holds true to a lesser extent for goods-producing jobs and jobs in trade and transportation. Jobs in mining have dropped — including and specifically mining jobs that aren’t in oil or gas, a sector that includes coal mining jobs.
Other sectors — the broad service-providing sector, finance, education and health, leisure and hospitality — have continued to grow steadily.
While Trump likes to talk about manufacturing and mining jobs, framing job growth in traditional blue-collar terms, the service sector continues to make up most of U.S. non-farm employment. More than 131 million people work in the service-providing “supersector” (as the BLS describes it). Services incorporates trade and transportation, finance, education and health, leisure and hospitality, and government, among other sectors.
Since Trump took office, the service-providing sector has added 5.3 million jobs. Manufacturing has added 497,000 jobs.
That addition hasn’t been evenly distributed, though. This year, job growth in manufacturing has been slower than it was in Obama’s second term. Vehicle manufacturing specifically has been slower under Trump than it was under Obama’s two terms — including the economic slowdown. Job growth in a number of sectors has been slower, including services, leisure, and education and health. One of the main exceptions is natural resources, which surged in Trump’s first two years of office but has turned south in 2019.
That sector, though, employs about 794,000 people. A 14 percent uptick in jobs in that sector since January 2017 has added 94,000 jobs — the equivalent of 0.07 percent of jobs in the service-providing sector.
Politics is rhetoric, and Trump’s rhetoric on jobs is intended to focus on the sort of gritty, salt-of-the-earth employment that reminds voters of an idealized postwar America. The reality is that employment trends under Trump are mostly a continuation of employment trends under Obama. This is a success in itself; many economists predicted that job growth would slow as fewer people were looking for jobs. But it’s not the case that Trump has refocused the economy heavily on manufacturing.
That was never likely to happen.