Right-wing media reacted with predictable enthusiasm to a better-than-expected February 2017 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which they attributed to President Donald Trump’s unique leadership. In reality, the economy is currently enjoying a 77-month streak of job creation that began under President Barack Obama -- whom the same outlets routinely blasted for leading a sluggish economic recovery.
On March 10, the BLS released its monthly jobs report for February 2017 showing that the economy added approximately 235,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained little changed at 4.7 percent. After accounting for minor upward revisions to data from December and January, the economy has produced an average of 209,000 jobs per month over the past three months.
As Politico’s chief economics correspondent, Ben White, pointed out, the positive report is “a continuation of a good, long trend” and shouldn’t be attributed directly to Trump. White also noted that it is hard to see a “Trump bump” in the February jobs data, which look “nearly identical” to those of February reports from the past two years. Economist Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explained this phenomenon at greater length in a March 10 blog, pointing out that Trump “inherited an economy that was already making steady progress towards full employment”:
Today’s jobs report, which showed the economy adding 235,000 jobs in February, is notable for being the first BLS report of the Trump administration. It may be tempting for today’s policymakers to claim credit for this solid employment growth, but credit is only truly deserved when the economy grows faster than expected. It’s important to remember that President Trump inherited an economy that was already making steady progress towards full employment.
The jobs data are certainly strong -- and they undermine Trump’s claim that he inherited a “mess” from his predecessor -- but not everything in the report was good news. Bloomberg financial columnist Conor Sen pointed out that the February report showed a drop in employment for workers without a high school diploma, and University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson noted that labor force participation for men actually declined slightly while participation rates for women increased.
These measured responses from expert journalists and professional economists were not echoed by Trump’s cohort of right-wing media devotees, who trumpeted the jobs report as a major victory for the administration. Under a headline proclaiming that the American economy was “GREAT AGAIN!” Breitbart economic editor John Carney -- who was hired to shepherd the fringe website out of the alt-right fever swamp -- absurdly claimed that job creation last month was “jaw-dropping” and that the “jobs market is sizzling.” On Twitter, the right-wing Drudge Report also proclaimed the report showed America was “GREAT AGAIN.” On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney stated that we could be witnessing a “Trump expansion” after 77 months of job creation -- 76 of which predate Trump:
On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the co-hosts joined Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich in lauding the report. Co-host Pete Hegseth stated that Trump is simply “winning everywhere” while Gingrich suggested that “you're seeing the beginnings, I emphasize ‘beginnings,’ of a potential Trump Economic Era”:
Media Matters pointed out last month how quickly Fox News had shifted from nitpicking the jobs reports to lauding them after Trump’s inauguration -- so quickly, in fact, that the network incorrectly credited a January expansion to the new president. New York Times reporter Sopan Deb mocked Trump and his right-wing allies for suddenly embracing positive jobs data that they spread conspiracy theories about just months ago, while New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait questioned why no outlets were reporting the more than 90 million people who are currently out of the labor market -- a favorite right-wing media misrepresentation during the Obama administration. As FiveThirtyEight chief economic writer Ben Casselman pointed out, no president deserves singular credit for monthly job creation in the vast American economy.