The first jobs report of the year confirmed that the economy closed out an excellent 2019 in strong shape. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the U.S. unemployment rate has persisted at a 50-year low of 3.5%, with real wage growth up by 2.9% in the past year. The report didn’t blow out expectations, but it didn’t have to.
It’s evidence that the longest bull market in history isn’t just continuing — it’s doing so while benefiting every class in the country. It’s also the single-best case for President Trump’s reelection. The data wasn’t all great news for Trump. Manufacturing job growth once again missed expectations, in no small part due to his trade war.
But his deregulatory agenda and tax cuts have instilled confidence in the economy and have helped pull record numbers of adults back into employment. Trump has managed to continue the post-Great Recession trend of increasing the employment of workers from outside of the labor force but also keep those in the labor force from leaving or losing their jobs.
All of this has culminated in the economy achieving its lowest average unemployment rate under Trump than any other president at a comparable point in office since the figure started being officially recorded in 1948. There are certainly many ways that the economy can still weaken ahead of the election.
Corporate debt incurred by highly leveraged loans, the student loan bubble, and the skyrocketing national debt are among the potential risk factors. But markets, employers, and consumers, who are largely responsible for our year-end economic momentum, have not yet balked, and thus far, there’s no indication that they will.
On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average breached a record 29,000, and a tightened labor market has led companies such as Taco Bell to announce they’ll try issuing six-figure salaries for managers. Most importantly, disaffected workers are increasingly returning to the labor force and employment as real wage increases for low-income workers have soared above those of their higher-income counterparts.
Regardless of how much credit one wants to give to Trump, the reality is that we haven’t gotten a bull market of this length, an unemployment rate of this low, or wage growth of this relative proportion under any other president. It will present a challenge to Democrats, especially those running on the idea of blowing up the system, to portray the economy as struggling.
But there’s something else historic about Trump’s presidency: He has the lowest average approval rating of any of his predecessors, going back to Harry Truman. Trump has averaged just 40% approval in Gallup polling and has never had a majority of Americans approve of his job performance. This points to the significant disconnect between people’s personal assessments of Trump and the stellar economic performance he has presided over.
. This is all the more reason why, if Trump wants to.....