CNN hyped meager growth in manufacturing employment shown in the latest monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as an example of robust Trump-driven job creation -- a claim so absurd it would make Fox News blush.
On May 5, the BLS released its employment update for April 2017, showing that the economy created 211,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, its lowest point in 10 years. Despite further negative revisions to job creation estimates for February and March, the report was generally solid and continued a 79-month streak of steady job creation and labor market improvement dating back to October 2010. In light of a meager March report, which Bloomberg described as “a weaker-than-expected reading,” the job market remains on a relatively stable and healthy upward trend since job growth began during the Obama administration. FiveThirtyEight senior economics writer Ben Casselman helpfully illustrated these long-running trends in a series of tweets. In an interview with The New York Times, economist Jason Furman actually expressed his surprise “that this late into an expansion the economy is still adding jobs well above the steady-state pace.”
There is plenty to like in this monthly jobs report, as has been the case for years, but for some reason CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans decided to overly inflate the significance of one specific portion that would serve as the most useful talking point for President Donald Trump. After discussing the top-line jobs and unemployment numbers, Romans absurdly claimed that the Trump administration should be credited for “kind of reviving some of the interest in the manufacturing sector,” which gained 6,000 jobs in April and 41,000 net jobs since January. From the May 5 edition of CNN’s New Day:
Romans’ comments were odd considering that she admitted health care created far more jobs in April (37,000) than manufacturing, and health care could be in peril in light of Trump’s attempt to take insurance away from millions of Americans. But even more concerning is that while it is true that the manufacturing sector, which employs approximately 12.4 million Americans, has seen 41,000 new jobs added since January, that increase -- a mere 0.3 percent -- is little more than a rounding error. In fact, the April 2017 report states that month-to-month job creation in the sector “showed little change,” and the final number will still be subject to two more revisions. As is the case with every other major labor market indicator, manufacturing employment began steadily increasing seven years ago in the wake of financial and economic rescue measures passed by the Obama administration. Employment in the sector has been relatively flat the past year:
In total, the jobs report for the last month wasn’t very different from other reports of the recent past, which had become routinely positive since the economy began recovering from the Great Recession. And Romans’ adoring portrayal seemed more suitable for the professional sycophants at Fox News than the reporting team at CNN.