Where will Trump’s economy go?
Several months ago I reported comparisons of job creation under Presidents Obama and Trump. Trump was making claims that under his administration, job creation was setting records.
The comparisons were of Obama’s last year and Trump’s first year. Through the summer of 2017 (in Trump’s first year), the numbers for the comparable period of 2016 had job creation under Obama well in front of Trump’s record.
Now that a full year of Trump’s administration is in the books, how do those numbers stack up?
Trump was inaugurated Jan. 20, 2017, so the first full month of his tenure was February of that year. From February 2017 through January 2018, a total of 2,168,000 jobs were created in the United States.
That’s not bad: it averaged just over 180,000 jobs a month. That’s more than enough to keep ahead of employee retirements and deaths.
During the comparable period of Obama’s last year (February 2016 through January 2017), 2.5 million jobs were created in America, or about 208,000 jobs a month.
Carving out public sector (government) jobs, the comparison was 2,149,000 private sector jobs under Trump and 2,300,000 jobs under Obama for those 12-month periods.
But that’s certainly not the whole story.
The economy under Trump is really booming, and a whole lot of Americans are doing better than they had for many years.
Unemployment stands at 4.1 percent, the lowest rate since 2000.
Wages are up 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the highest growth rate since June 2009, when recovery from the Great Recession was taking hold.
Jobs have been added to the American economy for 89 consecutive months, an all-time record. And jobless claims are at their lowest point in decades.
Consumer confidence ratings are just below their highest point in the past 18 years.
And stock markets are at record highs.
There are many reasons for the admirable numbers, just as there are for the job creation figures. It’s a stretch for any president to claim that he is directly responsible for the good numbers, or the bad ones.
But taking credit for favorable economic numbers is a hallowed presidential tradition in the United States. Trump, and presidents before him and assuredly after him, can be expected to continue it.
We didn’t see many Democrats pooh-poohing Obama’s statements about economic improvement under his watch, just as we don’t see many Republicans doing that for Trump.
It will be interesting, though, to see where the economy goes from here, in multiple sectors. That’s because Trump and the Republican Congress have recently taken actions that diverge sharply from the American norm.
They will deserve the credit, or the blame, for whatever follows from those moves.
One of those, of course, is the massive tax cut a few weeks ago, that analysts promise will add at least $1 trillion to the federal debt.
Another is this past week’s Trump announcement that he is imposing a tariff of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.
Even if he gives Canada and Mexico a temporary pass on the tariffs, agricultural states like Iowa are scared stiff about possible retaliation from our trading partners. Agriculture traditionally is one of the earliest economic sectors hurt in a trade war, and Iowa’s economy depends greatly on our exports.
There are many countries that grow commodities like corn and soybeans, and nations that now buy those crops from us can easily find them elsewhere.
The entire Iowa congressional delegation — all six of them, Democrat and Republican alike — has registered its opposition to the tariffs in writing.
Whether the Republicans in our delegation have the courage to go eye-to-eye with Trump on tariffs remains to be seen. There’s no time like the present.
Congressional legislation could end the Trump tariffs. Just jawboning the president may not cut it.