From the point of view of anything other than “alternative facts,” the official jobs report for January released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is the last of the Obama presidency, not the first of Trump’s, for the simple reason that the data it is based on were measured during the second week of the month, before Trump was inaugurated.
Still, in line with Trump’s more general claim that the skies brightened and investors everywhere rejoiced the moment his election was assured back in November, you can expect flacks for the new administration to take credit for the good things in the report while deflecting blame for anything bad.
But the thing is: It’s a mixed report, as many have been in recent years (that may be why as of this writing Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed is silent on the subject). Net new-jobs growth was robust at 227,000, significantly above the consensus expectation of 180,000. The official unemployment rate (which Trump has attacked as a “phony” yardstick for employment) ticked up very slightly, to 4.8 percent. But wage growth seemed to flatten; a “downside surprise” on wages led to some negative market reactions. As always, though, tepid economic indicators are good news for those who don’t like interest-rate hikes, and the report is being deemed as providing too little evidence of overheating to support another Fed rate hike in March.
The broader political question is when Americans begin to stop thinking of the economy as something Trump inherited and begin thinking of it as something he is creating. All the hype about a “Trump rally” in equity markets is certainly hastening the transition of economic ownership. But without question, any bad economic news that pops up will be treated by Team Trump as proof positive that whatever they are doing needs to be accelerated.