This morning, The News Blender ran a great piece by Don Sutherland, “U.S. Unemployment Strength: Who Deserves Credit?” The commentary below is not intended to compete with or duplicate Don’s analysis, but rather, complement it.
The latest unemployment numbers have been released and show that the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.9%, under 4% for the first time since 2000!
Of course, this is great news, which I’m sure we will hear about quite a bit, largely attributing it to President Trump from his supporters and himself.
JUST OUT: 3.9% Unemployment. 4% is Broken! In the meantime, WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
I guess the added text is supposed to imply, “Look how great I’m doing, so stop the WITCH HUNT or it might all go bad.”
Generally, all Presidents take credit for any good economic news during their tenure, so President Trump is no different in that regard, although one could make a case that his methods and hyperbole are unique.
However, I always think it’s a good idea to look at these things in a broader way in order to give it their proper context.
To be sure, the reduced taxes on businesses and the reduction in regulations that the Trump administration is doing, are good things, and definitely should have positive effects on the economy and on employment. On the other hand, the uncertainty with trade deals and tariffs, and broadside attacks on businesses like Amazon (and the millions of businesses associated with Amazon) will most definitely have negative effects.
In either case, these things will play out over a long term, so it’s important to look at them with a broader lens to get the whole picture.
When Trump first took office, there was big talk about how well the stock market was doing, presumably because of Trump. However, as the chart shows below, the increase in the stock market was already on a steady trend upwards, beginning back when President Obama took office. In fact, the Dow more than doubled during Obama’s 8 years. So, are we also heaping a lot of praise on Obama for that?
Likewise, when looking at the unemployment rate, this was also a definite trend started during the Obama years:
President Trump also likes to tout how well he has preformed with the unemployment rate for African Americans. However, as the chart below shows, this statistic’s trend has followed closely with other races, which indicates that there has been no special actions taken specifically for African Americans:
As well for women:
Why it matters:
Consistency and intellectual honesty are important. During the Obama years, everyone on the right was discounting any such good news about the economy as “not telling the whole story” and “the President actually has little effect on these things”. However, now that it’s a Republican President, many on the right are praising and cheering this news like we have finally turned things around and it’s all due to President Trump and Republican policies, which is demonstrably false. If we are going to have credibility when it comes to our policy positions, we need to be honest and measured in the way we present them.