Just over a year ago, while speaking the Detroit Economic Club, Donald Trump decried “the weakest so-called recovery since the Great Depression.” Cataloging the problems facing Michigan and the nation’s industrial heartland, he told his audience, “I want to jump-start America.”
The following month he told an audience in Chicago that he would be the “greatest president for jobs that God ever created … We’re going to have job growth like you’ve never seen.”
Labor Department statistics released earlier this month show that during the first six months Trump occupied the White House, nonfarm payrolls grew by 1.074 million. Trump, his allies and some in the media have claimed that that number proves that the president is delivering on his campaign promises.
But a closer look at Labor Department statistics undercuts those claims. The numbers show a slight weakening of the job-creation trends of the Obama era — which Trump previously characterized as “anemic”— and a significant loss of momentum in a number of hard-pressed industrial states.
Not only does the six-month increase in employment fail to qualify as a “jump-start,” it represents a slower pace of job creation than occurred during the six months before Trump took office. Monthly expansion of total U.S. employment has been about 2 percent lower since last January than it was during the previous six-month period, and 9 percent lower than 2016 as a whole.
More recent Labor Department data tells another important story. Regional disparities in job creation continue to be a serious problem, and they appear to be worsening. State-by-state employment data just released on August 18 shows that five states — Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and New Hampshire — have actually lost jobs since January, and in seven more — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, South Dakota, Delaware, Idaho, and Louisiana — job growth has basically been unchanged and well below the levels needed to keep up with population growth.
Further, a number of states that continue to experience some level of job growth during the Trump presidency have grown at a much slower pace. In Michigan, where Trump made his promise to boost the economy, employment growth dropped from 7,850 jobs per month during the final six months of the Obama administration to only 2,550 per month during the first six months of the Trump administration. Pennsylvania, where payrolls had been expanding by about 6,000 a month, saw average monthly growth of only 4,000 a month during this administration.
In Indiana, monthly payroll growth has basically stalled since Trump and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence took office. It has averaged 667 jobs per month since January, but saw monthly job growth of nearly 4,000 jobs per month in the final six months of the Obama administration.
Just five states — Texas, California, Florida, New York and Minnesota — have accounted for 44 percent of the nation’s new jobs over the past six months. If the president wants to make good on his promise of being the “greatest president for jobs that God ever created,” he will need much better numbers than those reported so far by the Labor Department.