U.S. jobs boom favours Demo­cratic coun­ties

The Western Star - - BUSINESS - BY JOSH BOAK

The United States is on pace to add about 2.6 mil­lion jobs this year un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s watch. Yet the bulk of the hir­ing has oc­curred in bas­tions of Demo­cratic vot­ers rather than in the Repub­li­can coun­ties that put Trump in the White House.

On av­er­age for the yearended this May, 58.5 per cent of the job gains were in coun­ties that backed Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis of monthly gov­ern­ment jobs data by county.

De­spite an oth­er­wise ro­bust na­tional econ­omy, the anal­y­sis shows that a strik­ing num­ber of Trump coun­ties are los­ing jobs. The AP found that 35.4 per cent of Trump coun­ties have shed jobs in the past year, com­pared with just 19.2 per cent of Clin­ton coun­ties.

The jobs data shows an econ­omy that is as frac­tured as the po­lit­i­cal land­scape ahead of the 2018 midterm elec­tions. As more money pools in such cor­po­rate hubs as Hous­ton, San Fran­cisco or Seat­tle, pros­per­ity spills over less and less to smaller towns and cities in Amer­ica’s in­te­rior. That would seem to un­der­cut what Trump sees as a cen­tral ac­com­plish­ment of his ad­min­is­tra­tion - job cre­ation for mid­dle class and blue-col­lar work­ers in towns far re­moved from glitzy ur­ban cen­tres.

Job growth in Trump’s econ­omy is still con­cen­trated in the same gen­eral places as it was to­ward the end of Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency — when roughly 58.7 per cent of the av­er­age an­nual job gains were in Demo­cratic coun­ties.

Yet the lack of trans­for­ma­tive job growth in Trump ar­eas hasn’t seemed to erode his sup­port among Repub­li­cans, while hir­ing in Demo­cratic ar­eas have done lit­tle to im­prove his stand­ing with those vot­ers. For Trump’s core sup­port­ers, cul­tural is­sues such as gun rights, im­mi­gra­tion and loy­alty to the pres­i­dent have be­come dom­i­nant pri­or­i­ties.

Trump has pointed with pride at a strength­en­ing na­tional econ­omy in hopes that vot­ers will re­ward the Repub­li­can Party by pre­serv­ing its ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate this year. The gov­ern­ment re­ported the fastest quar­terly eco­nomic growth since 2014 and the un­em­ploy­ment rate is a healthy 3.9 per cent. At a Penn­syl­va­nia rally on Thurs­day, the pres­i­dent de­clared, “Our econ­omy is soar­ing. Our jobs are boom­ing.”

But other is­sues pre­oc­cupy the minds of the party faith­ful in Trump stronghold­s such as Beaver County, Penn­syl­va­nia, north­west of Pitts­burgh.

Chip Kohser, the county Repub­li­can chair­man and the bristle-bearded founder of a farm share com­pany, said his party mem­bers are ral­ly­ing around their staunch op­po­si­tion to gun con­trol.

“Our No. 1 mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor,” he said, “is Sec­ond Amend­ment is­sues.”

Kohser, 41, drives a white pickup truck, smokes cigars and views Amer­ica as be­ing jaggedly splin­tered along ide­o­log­i­cal lines that make it hard to find com­mon ground. Demo­cratic calls for stricter gun con­trol in the after­math of mass shoot­ings, he said, are fu­el­ing more zeal among his Repub­li­can vol­un­teers than are the $1.5 tril­lion in tax cuts that Trump signed into law last year.

Since May 2017, Beaver County has lost 191 jobs. With the warmer sum­mer weather, hir­ing is now on an upswing. But em­ploy­ers have fewer job ap­pli­cants avail­able as the labour force has shrunk by roughly 1,000 work­ers in the past 12 months, the re­sult of decades of pop­u­la­tion loss that hit for­mer steel towns such as Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Mid­land.

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