Drilling down: Job report exposes a bustling economy

During the past 13 months, a period that dates back to President Trump’s inauguration, approximately 2.4 million jobs have been created and the national unemployment rate has dropped from 4.8% to 4.1%.

A 0.7% drop in unemployment might seem more like a failure than an achievement, but it takes a lot of heavy lifting to raise the bar. During the last five months when 1.15 million new jobs were created, the national jobless rate remained stuck at 4.1%.

By any other yardstick, though, the U.S. economy under Mr. Trump’s management has been on a well-defined upward slope lately.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which compiles the monthly report on the nation’s employment situation, each month of Mr. Trump’s presidency—with the singular exception of last September which was marred by devastating hurricanes in Florida and Texas—has brought an increase in the number of jobs in the U.S.

By February’s end, there were 155.2 million people earning paychecks from non-farming jobs, up from 152.8 million the previous February when Mr. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, vacated the White House. The increase of 2.4 million people in the workforce coincided with the overall number of jobs that were created during the past 13 months.

The February 2018 report, issued last Friday, showed the strongest job creation performance yet, a total of 313,000 new jobs. Job numbers like the ones being posted by Mr. Trump’s administration are evidence of a robust economy that is leaving years of sluggish performances in its rearview mirror. Whether by luck or stunning achievement, America is cashing in on its decision to put the presidency in Trump’s hands.

Adding 2.4 million paychecks to the U.S. payroll carries its own benefits. For one thing, the additional payroll yields bigger tax withholding deposits and it is money the federal government can use to pay its expenses. This means, in turn, that government can avoid the partisan bickering that erupts whenever it needs authorization to spend more money than the debt ceiling will allow.

Last December’s enactment by Congress of tax reduction legislation—and its accompanying reduction in tax withholding collections—would have been a setback for the government’s money needs. But with 2.4 million more taxpayers added to the collection, it helped offset the loss of money that the U.S. Treasury was facing from the new tax cut law.

Especially important, cutting taxes without reducing the overall collection of withholding taxes means government can avoid partisan battles over debt ceiling increases that are usually punctuated by threats of shutting down the government when the money runs out. (Incidentally, the Treasury Department collected $1.1 trillion in withholding taxes from the October 1 start of the current fiscal year through March 9; and, $211 billion of the amount was collected during the two-week period between February 23 and March 9.)

Unfortunately, ordinary citizens are rarely given a full explanation of the monthly BLS jobs report. More often, newscasts and newspapers are reduced to providing a brief note that usually consists of the job creation number and very little else. But, in fact, the BLS reports are treasure troves of information.

For example, the BLS report reveals how jobs are split among the so-called “major worker groups” which are divided by gender and age (for adult men, adult women, and teenagers) and by race (white, black, Hispanic and Asian). Over the 13 months of Mr. Trump’s presidency, every worker group is faring better than they were when Mr. Obama’s presidency ended in January 2017.

Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, unemployment for adult men dropped from 4.9% to 3.7% and adult women dropped from 4.3% to 3.8%. Teenagers experienced a similar reduction in joblessness, from 14.9% to 14.4%.

Percentages aside, job growth is evidenced by raw numbers. Adult males in the workforce increased from 81.78 million to 83.31 million; adult females grew from 69.16 million to 69.83 million; and, the number of employed teenagers (aged 16 through 19) grew from 4.66 million to 5.17 million.

Similarly, jobless rates were reduced across-the-board for whites (from 4.4% to 3.7%, blacks (from 8.3% to 6.9%), Hispanics (from 6.0% to 4.9%) and Asians (from 3.5% to 2.9%).

Ed Zuckerman

For access to the complete BLS monthly job report, go to Bureau of Labor Statistics: February 2018 Employment Situation