Trump’s presidency, so far, by the numbers
Some records set, but lots of room to improve
In the time Donald Trump has been in the White House:
❚ The jobless rate dropped to the lowest in nearly half a century, and the number of unfilled job openings hit a record high.
❚ Economic growth spurted to a 4.2 percent annual rate in the most recent quarter.
❚ Median household income rose to the highest level ever recorded in 2017. Poverty declined.
❚ The growth of federal regulations slowed and has lately reversed.
❚ Crime rates declined. The number of homicides went down 0.7 percent last year after rising for the previous two years.
❚ Carbon emissions rose. Coal mining jobs went up a bit.
❚ Corporate profits, stock prices and home values set record highs.
❚ The trade deficit grew larger.
❚ The federal debt increased by nearly $1.4 trillion, more than 9 percent. Yearly deficits increased.
❚ The U.S. image abroad plunged. We make no judgment as to how much credit or blame any president deserves for things that happen during his time in office. Opinions differ on that.
Jobs and unemployment
Job growth slowed a bit under Trump, but unemployment dropped to the lowest point in nearly half a century.
❚ Employment: Total nonfarm employment grew by 3.8 million during the president’s first 20 months in office, according to the most recent figures available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That continued an unbroken chain of monthly gains in total employment that started nearly eight years earlier.
The average monthly gain under Trump is 190,000 jobs, 12 percent below the average monthly gain of 217,000 during Obama’s second term.
Trump will have to pick up the pace to fulfill his campaign boast that he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
❚ Unemployment: One reason for the slowdown in job growth: fewer job-seekers. The unemployment rate – which was well below the historical norm when Trump took office – has continued to fall.
The rate was 4.8 percent when he was sworn in and fell to 3.7 percent in September. The last time it was that low was October 1969.
❚ Job openings: Another reason employment growth has slowed is a worsening shortage of qualified workers. The number of unfilled job openings hit a new record of more than 6.9 million as of the last business day in July – the most in the 18 years the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking them.
That’s a gain of nearly 1.5 million unfilled job openings – or 27.5 percent – since Trump took office.
❚ Labor force participation: Despite the abundance of jobs, the labor force participation rate – which went down 2.8 percentage points under Obama – has slipped a bit more under Trump.
Republicans often criticized Obama for the decline during his time, even though it was due mostly to baby boomers reaching retirement age and other demographic factors beyond the control of any president.
Since Trump took office, the rate has fluctuated in a narrow range. It was 62.7 percent in August, 0.2 percentage points below where it was the month Trump took office.
❚ Manufacturing jobs: Those increased under Trump, even faster than total employment.
The number rose by 378,000 between Trump’s inauguration and September. That followed a net decrease of 192,000 under Obama.
The increase under Trump amounts to 3.1 percent, compared with the 2.6 percent increase in overall employment. The number of manufacturing jobs is still nearly 1 million below where it was in December 2007, at the start of the Great Recession.
The economy is growing faster under Trump – spurting to a yearly rate of 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the most recent official estimate.
That’s up from the 2.2 percent increase during his first year, followed by a 2.2 percent yearly rate in the first quarter of 2018, according to the most recent estimate of the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s the “real” rate of growth in gross domestic product after accounting for price inflation.
The 4.2 percent rate is just within the 4 to 6 percent rate Trump promised repeatedly, both when he was a candidate and also as president.
Most economists believe the current growth spurt is temporary. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued an updated economic forecast Aug. 13 projecting real GDP to grow 3.1 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2019. That’s in line with the most recent median forecast of the Federal Reserve Board members and Federal Reserve Bank presidents (issued Sept. 26), which is for 3.1 percent growth in 2018, 2.5 percent in 2019 and 2.0 percent in 2020.
Income and poverty
❚ Household income: Household income hit another record during Trump’s first year – but it comes with an asterisk.
The Census Bureau’s measure of median household income reached $61,372 in 2017. After adjusting for inflation, that was an increase of $1,063 from the previous record level reached in Obama’s final year, when the median income finally reached and exceeded a level last seen in 1999.
In percentage terms, the increase in 2017 was 1.8 percent, following a 3.1 percent increase in 2016.
However, a senior census official cautioned that the latest “records” in 2016 and 2017 are due in part to a change in the survey questions in 2014. Starting then, the annual survey has picked up some sources of income that were previously missed. Taking this into account, Jonathan L. Rothbaum, chief of the Income Statistics Branch, said the 2017 median income would be in a “statistical tie” with incomes measured in 2007 and 1999.
❚ Poverty: As incomes rose, the rate of poverty declined. The percentage of Americans living with income below the official poverty line went down to 12.3 percent of the population in 2017, the lowest level since 2006, just before the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
The average monthly gain under Trump is 190,000 jobs, 12 percent below the 217,000 in Obama’s second term. Trump will have to pick up the pace to fulfill his campaign boast that he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
Crime declined a bit in Trump’s first year, except for rapes, assaults and motor vehicle thefts, which increased.
The number of homicides declined by 0.7 percent in 2017, according to the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report, after rising the prior two years.
The number of all violent crimes went down by 0.2 percent. That included a 2.5 percent increase in rapes and a 1 percent increase in assaults, offset by a 4 percent decrease in robberies and the drop in homicides.
The number of property crimes went down 3 percent in 2017, including a 7.6 percent drop in burglaries and a 2.2 percent decrease in larcenies, but the number of motor vehicle thefts increased slightly, by 0.8 percent.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly claimed that the murder rate was “the highest it’s been in 45 years.” That was wildly untrue. In fact, the murder rate had dropped to the lowest on record in 2014 – 4.4 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. The peak rate of 10.2 was reached in 1980.
In Trump’s first year, the murder rate dropped down a notch to 5.3 per 100,000 population – still higher than in each of Obama’s first seven years.