U.S. Economy Adds 235,000 Jobs,
Continuing Long Pace of Robust Growth
FlaglerLive | March 10, 2017
It’s not quite the Donald Trump economy just yet–the president has as much to do with February’s job gains as Barack Obama had with the 700,000 jobs lost after his first full month in office–but the strong job growth of the past two years shows no sign of abating. In February, the economy added 235,000 jobs, after adding 238,000 the previous month. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, not quite the post-Great Recession low of 4.6 percent recorded last November, but close enough.
Florida’s latest-recorded unemployment rate, for December, was 4.9 percent, and 5.4 percent in Flagler County.
Trump on the campaign trail had referred to the unemployment rate as “a phony number,” a “joke,” and “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics,” claiming the actual unemployment rate is closer to 18 to 35 percent (he’s repeatedly used numbers within that range). In December, after he became president, he called the unemployment numbers “fiction.”
He would be partly right if he were to qualify his statements, or go with more realistic numbers that the Labor Department itself issues monthly–the alternative unemployment and under-employment rate, known as the U-6 rate, which includes those who have quit looking for work for being too discouraged as well as those working part-time because their hours have been cut back, or because they could not find full-time work.
But even that alternative rate has been falling steadily. It now stands at 9.2 percent, the lowest rate since the Great Recession. During the best Bush years, when official unemployment fell to close to 4 percent, the alternative rate remained above 8 percent.
In February, the number of unemployed was 7.5 million, of whom 1.8 million have been unemployed for half a year or more. There were 5.7 million involuntary part-time workers (including agricultural workers), among whom nearly 2 million could not find full-time work, and 3.6 million had seen their hours cut back. There were also 20.8 million people working part-time by choice.
Trump has claimed that the part-time workforce has increased significantly because of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He is wrong. In fact, as Politifact reported, there were 9.2 million “involuntary” part-time workers overall when the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010. The number had fallen to 6.4 million by May 2016, and to 5.7 million in February, a 38 percent decrease. (There is a caveat: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces those numbers monthly, also considers a worker who logs two 20-hour jobs as one full-time worker. But the downward trend holds.)
Looking at the February numbers’ fine print, sectors that saw net gains include construction, private education, manufacturing (a gain of 28,000, for a total of 57,000 new jobs in the past three months), health care, mining and professional and business services. Retail was among the few losing sectors.
The more closely watched number has been the average hourly earnings, which had lagged behind for years until the final 15 months or so of the Obama administration, when those numbers started gaining enough to overcome inflation. Those improvements continue, with a gain of 6 cents in February, on top of a 5-cent gain in January. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 71 cents, or 2.8 percent. As long as that growth exceeds that of inflation, the net result is an improvement in the standard of living of employees.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate decreased for Whites to 4.1 percent in February. The jobless rate for adult men and adult women was 4.3 percent, the rate for teenagers was 15 percent, 8.1 percent for Blacks, 3.4 percent for Asians, and 5.6 percent for Hispanics.