Barack Obama took office in January 2009 amidst one of the greatest economic challenges the country had faced since the Great Depression. He and what would be a short-lived Democratic majority in Congress went to work to try and get things back on track, passing a stimulus bill with almost no help from Republicans. That stimulus was the jolt that got the economy moving again and led to 75 straight months of job growth and a final tally of some 11.3 million new jobs.
And what did Donald Trump have to say about all that? He called the numbers "fake." According to him, true unemployment was at record levels. He even said it could be as high as 40 percent. But now that he has been in office for almost five months and the economic indicators continue to be strong, thanks in no small measure to the foundation that was built during the Obama years, suddenly the jobs reports are accurate and everything is coming up roses.
On June 12 Trump noted that 1.1 million jobs have been created over the past seven months. That announcement gave pause to all of us who can count, since it meant that he was taking credit for job creation going back to his election, not just to his inauguration. And the simple fact of the matter is, according to economists, Trump can't claim credit for any job creation numbers yet.
In March, Politico took a look at the employment numbers from Trump's first full month in office. As part of that report, they talked to economists who shot down the idea that new job gains had anything to do with Trump.
"I would say it’s a bit early to attribute much of the strength [to Trump]," said Jim O’Sullivan of High Frequency Economics. "It’s not clear that the trend in employment growth has changed much since the election. I emphasize that it was already pretty strong."
And three months later, it's still too early to give Trump any credit. Frances Donald, of Manulife Asset Management, explained to Politico how the job market works.
"One of the most important elements of analyzing labor market reports is that they’re lagging indicators so they tend to be a reflection of what has been happening in the economy in the prior six months to a year. The jobs numbers that we’ll see six months from now will probably be a better reflection of the new administration."
Ms. Donald made that observation in March, so Trump still has at least three months before anything that happens with jobs and unemployment can be attributed to him or his policies. And her observation is borne out by the now-famous chart of job creation during the Obama presidency.
Some of Trump's fans delight in referring to him as their "God-Emperor." That is apparently what he wants everybody to think that he is with his boasts about the fantastic economy that he has supposedly created. But other than bullying and browbeating a handful of companies to keep a few thousand jobs in the US, neither Trump nor his Republican Congress has done a single thing about jobs. In fact, the only significant piece of legislation that has been passed by the House, the American Health Care Act, will likely cause job losses in health related fields. Many of those fields have been on a roll since the passage of Obamacare, with an estimated 240,000 new, high-paying jobs created in medical fields. When all of those newly insured Americans start losing their insurance and stop going for care, job losses will be inevitable.
Trump reminds me of what a gentleman I coached soccer with jokingly told me a few years ago: "When the team wins, it's always due to great coaching. When they lose, it's all the players' fault." When the steam runs out of the Obama economy in a few months, and Trump still has done nothing except preen and take credit for things he didn't do, it will be interesting to see who he blames first -- his economic team, Congress, Democrats, or Obama. My money's on the black guy.