During campaign season, Republican voters made it clear that there was one GOP candidate that they trusted more than any other to lead the American economy: Donald Trump.
Following Trump’s first full month as president, while too early to know for sure, it is starting to seem that trust was well-placed. Economists have noted that “February proved to be an incredibly strong month for employment with increases we have not seen in years.”
On Friday, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its official numbers on the current state of the American labor force, numbers that make it clear there’s even more good news to be had:
— US Labor Department (@USDOL) March 10, 2017
In addition to the creation of 235,000 new jobs in February, the BLS report found that the number of employed Americans rose by 447,000 from January to February — bringing it to a reported record total of 152,528,000.
What’s more, the report reveals that there was a record high “160,056,000 Americans working or seeking jobs in February,” the first time it has surpassed the 160,000,000 mark.
Given that the BLS measures unemployment rates not simply by those who do not have a job, but by those who are also “actively looking for work,” this increase in labor participation makes the unemployment rate — which dropped from 4.8% in January to 4.7% in February — even more telling.
As Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, explained:
“This is one of the tightest labor markets I have seen in the 43-year history of National Federation of Independent Business’ survey.
Overall though, the job numbers in the small business sector are solid, and owners are still showing that they are confident in the future of our economy.”
Clearly, they’re numbers that the White House, too, considers very much worth celebrating:
Not a bad way to start day 50 of this Administration https://t.co/pysL1jxLpq
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 10, 2017
“Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment. The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”
In this instance, Trump was referring to the Obama-era unemployment rate, which did receive criticism from the media and economists when it was paired with a high labor participation rate. PBS explained in December 2016:
While the U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, that didn’t offset the 226,000 people leaving the labor force. The labor force is made up of those looking for work (the unemployed) and the employed. And when people give up looking for work — often because they don’t think there are any jobs available for them — or retire, the labor force decreases. As a result, the unemployment rate drops.
American Enterprise Institute economist Aparna Mathur elaborated to PBS:
“We still see a lot of discouraged workers. A lot of workers probably have part-time jobs that they are not happy with, and those are not turning into full-time jobs, so they are dropping out [of the labor force].”
In other words:
Economists say focus on state's labor force participation rate, not unemployement rate http://t.co/T0pd8hNx8j
— KITV4 (@KITV4) March 11, 2014
And the White House certainly seems optimistic. As Press Secretary Sean Spicer — who noted he was directly quoting Trump — said on Friday, “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”