The report was due the day after the 4th of July and in some media precincts, you could detect a kind hopeful anticipation of bad numbers. Or, if not exactly “bad,” then certainly disappointing. Tinged with the hope that things would get worse.
CNN reported that
… the rapid job growth of the past two years seems to be cooling off.
Economists … estimate that Friday’s employment report … will show that the nation added 160,000 jobs in June, while remaining at a historically low 3.6% unemployment rate.
That would be a bounce back from the disappointing 75,000 jobs in May, but a slowdown from the 196,000-per-month average over the past year.
CNN then went on to quote one of its reliable “experts,” who said:
“The slowdown that we are experiencing is significant and the economy is very close to what I would call stall-out speed, where unemployment is rising. This is the first time really in almost a decade where we are starting to see a material, significant slowing in job creation.”
That was on Wednesday. News took the 4th off and, then, on Friday, we learned that the prediction of pretty good job growth was wrong. Instead the 160,000 new jobs predicted by the experts, the economy added 224,000 new jobs.
Off, then, by more than 1/3. Good thing the experts aren’t bookies. In that profession, getting the numbers wrong can get your knees broken.
Well, you think, at least they were wrong in the right direction. The economy beating their predictions is certainly good news, right?
The problem with those number is that they bring credit, first, to Donald Trump and, then, to the free market economics, roughly speaking. The tariff business is still problematic. But, the policies of the Trump administration are manifestly paying off in terms of employment and economic growth.
This seems to be especially true with respect to the administration’s policies regarding regulation. Which is to say … it wants less of it. The message to business and industry, these day, is “go for it.” During the Obama administration it had been, “Watch yourself.”
Still … the headlines on Friday did not read, “Experts and media wrong. Jobs report blows the doors off.”
CNN (again) did not headline the report on its website. The story ran in the news sidebar under the headline : “Dow Falls On Solid Jobs Report.”
The disappointment behind those words was almost palpable. A good jobs report is good news for President Trump. And good news for Trump is bad news for CNN.
Which leads one to ask: “Should voters give credit to Trump for that good jobs report and should they, therefore, vote to re-elect him?”
It is pretty widely assumed that absent an unpopular war like the one in Vietnam, the best thing an incumbent president can have going for him in a re-election campaign is a booming economy. Nobody was going to beat Bill Clinton in 1996. Those were the days of the dot com boom, when the peace dividend following the end of the cold war was kicking in and the baby-boomers were in their peak earning years. Voters were not likely to rock that boat.
And, then, there was 1984, when Reagan’s campaign was capitalizing on a rebounding economy and running campaign ads about how it was “Morning again in America.” Walter Mondale was, meanwhile, promising Americans that he would raise their taxes. He won his native state of Minnesota. The rest went for Reagan.
So if you are praying devoutly for Trump’s defeat in 2020, then yesterday’s job report was bad news. Simple as that. Leaving you to explain why it wasn’t really such good news, that it leaves important things out, and surely this won’t last …
The New York Times found a banker willing to say, “There’s lots of talk about uncertainty, and maybe that’s going to lend itself to a weakening in hiring, but we haven’t actually seen it happen yet.”
But, of course, he and the editors of the Times could still hope, couldn’t they?
If there is one thing, above all else, that ordinary Americans dislike – not to say, “hate” – about politics, it is that it curdles everything with sour partisanship.
The economy is booming and people who want to work can find a job. This, one would think, is just about the closest we can get to unalloyed, non-partisan good news. Most of us know people for whom this is personally good news that translates not only into cash but also … pride.
There seemed to be more fireworks going off around my house on the night of the 4th than in years past.
Probably because people had money to pay for them.
Geoffrey Norman is a former editor of Esquire magazine and is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has authored more than 15 books and remains active shaping public policy discussions. He lives in Vermont.