Job numbers and employment statistics in general can be used to either promote a certain policy or demonize it. They can also be used by politicians as either proof of their own achievements or proof of their enemies failures. The February jobs report, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers up new examples of each case.
Donald Trump was quick to jump on the BLS report and claim that it is because of his policies that the U.S. saw job gains of 235,000 in February. In only a month, Trump has helped the American economy grow. This is a far cry from him classifying the jobs report as “fake” when similar growth numbers were reported under Barack Obama. He did so at least 19 times before being elected.
But it isn’t just Donald Trump who is using the new statistics in ways that show hypocrisy. Upon hearing the news of job gains that proved to exceed expectations, the stock market is bracing for a hike in interest rates from the Federal Reserve. Last month Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave signals that an increase in the interest rate could be coming in March if the February jobs report is strong enough.
No one seems to question what was actually in the report, and whether the month of February was really any better than other months. The unemployment rate did go down, from 4.8% to 4.7%, however, it was at 4.7% back in December, and 4.6% in November. The current rate of unemployment is nothing new. The labor force participation rate was also up, from 62.9% to 63% yet it is really only .1% better than January, and also only .1% better than February of 2016.
The truth of the matter is actually written in the introduction to the February jobs report. “Little changed”, “little or no change”, “showed little change”. If nothing has changed, then why all of the talk of it being such a “strong” report? If the report is strong, yet nothing really changed, then logic would lead one to believe that the report from last month or last year was also strong, yet the rhetoric was different, both from President Trump and Janet Yellen. Logic would also lead one to the conclusion that the BLS reports are irrelevant in determining Trump’s rhetoric or the policies of the Federal Reserve, meaning they are both acting on either different information or different motives.