Moneybox

Can You Spot Donald Trump’s Economic Boom?

A visual fact check of the president’s State of the Union claims.

Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi seated behind Donald Trump as he delivers the State of the Union address.
We feel you, Nancy. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

As expected, President Donald Trump spent a significant chunk of his State of the Union address bragging about the economy, which is reasonably strong right now. Also as expected, he took far more credit than he deserves.

Take his riff about unemployment:

If we hadn’t reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success. The unemployment rate for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans has reached the lowest levels in history. African American youth unemployment has reached an all-time low. African American poverty has declined to the lowest rate ever recorded. The unemployment rate for women reached the lowest level in almost 70 years.

Now, tell me if you can spot where the rate of job growth soared under Trump. Seriously. Go ahead:

Employment chart.
FRED

Here’s another view, just for fun:

Annual job growth chart.
FRED

Trump inherited a fairly durable economic expansion and has mostly managed not to screw it up. He helped keep job growth steady with more deficit spending and the stimulative effects of his tax cut. He probably undermined it a bit with his trade war, which dragged on business investment and taxed consumers via tariffs. But overall, annual job growth is a little slower than at the end of the Obama administration.

Elsewhere, Trump gloated about reviving American manufacturing, proclaiming, once again, that his administration had brought on a “blue collar boom”:

We are restoring our nation’s manufacturing might, even though predictions were, as you all know, that this could never be done. After losing 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations, America has now gained 12,000 new factories under my administration with thousands of thousands of plants and factories being planned or built.

Two points here. First, manufacturing jobs flatlined about a year ago:

Manufacturing jobs chart.
FRED

Second, that factory revival Trump is so proud of also began under President Barack Obama. It picked up ever so slightly in 2017.

Chart of number of factories.
BLS

Trump is going to spend the next 10 months taking credit for rescuing the U.S. economy from the brink of catastrophe. It takes one glance at a graph to realize it’s not true.

Update, Feb. 4, 2020: The second graph, depicting annual job growth, has been replaced. The original showed a smoothed trend. The current version depicts actual yearly numbers.