Moneybox

Trump’s Jobs Record Is Weaker Than Everyone Thought

Donald Trump stands in front of Air Force One.
Donald Trump, the president. Saul Loeb/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has always exaggerated the strength of his jobs record, claiming to have brought about an unprecedented hiring boom when, in fact, payrolls have been growing at a somewhat slower pace than they had been during Barack Obama’s final years in office. But it turns out, the reality of it was even weaker than the official data let on.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest batch of employment numbers, along with its annual benchmark revisions adjusting its estimates from prior months. Before, the government believed that the U.S. had added 223,000 jobs per month in 2018, the year that the GOP’s tax cuts and new, higher spending levels took effect. It has now lowered that estimate to 193,000 per month, a significant drop.

Here’s how this changes the story of the past few years. Based on the old numbers, it looked like Trump had inherited a steady economy but gave hiring a boost in 2018 through some deficit-fueled stimulus. Based on the new numbers, it looks like he inherited a steadily growing economy and didn’t do much at all. Trump’s deficits likely juiced employment growth a bit, while his trade war likely undercut it. (The Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes probably muted growth in 2018 a bit too.) In the end, the economy has added fewer jobs in every year of his presidency than it did during Obama’s final one. There never was much of a Trump bump.

A chart showing annual job growth under Obama and Trump from 2013 through 2019, with either man's face on top of the bar representing a year he was in office.
Graph: Jordan Weissmann. Images: Tom Brenner/Getty Images and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images