Political Economy Of The Jobs Report

The BLS out with the employment report this morning,

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 201,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and mining.  – BLS

Historically average employment growth coupled with an acceleration in average hourly earnings.

Nevertheless, job growth was impressive given the tightening constraint on labor supply, which is starting to show up in higher nominal wage growth.

Ideally, wages grow based on productivity gains and not supply shortages, which are inflationary in nature.  The real average hourly earnings growth was pretty much about flat, although relative earnings in some sectors, such as construction, are accelerating.  We expect inflation to accelerate x/ a major financial shock.

Political Implications

We have been tracking the Trump labor market relative to the Obama labor market for several months now.   Though the economy is now growing at almost double the rate than during President Obama’s last six quarters in office, the gains are not being equitably distributed to labor.   The size of the surplus labor pool is also shrinking, forcing  potential employers to begin to raise wages and pass it on to consumers, creating generalized inflation,  or, if possible, choose to automate.


Employment Payrolls Chart

The chart above and following table illustrate our point.


Employment Table


During the last 19 months of the Obama administration, the monthly change in nonfarm payrolls averaged 208k, totaling 3.96 million, versus 185k per month, or 3.58 million, during the first 19 payroll reports of the Trump Administration.  There are three more employment reports before midterms and monthly nonfarm payroll gains will have to average 392k in order for the Trump jobs market to catch the Obama job increases, and that just ain’t gonna happen folks.

The latest 3-mo moving average of monthly job gains is now running at 168k versus 204k when President Obama’s left office at the end of January 2017.

The labor market is supply constrained and continued strong economic growth is going to translate into wage inflation, which will be passed on in general price increases.

The Trump administration deserves kudos for reviving manufacturing employment, but, surprisingly,  wage growth in that sector is much lower under Trump.   We suspect this has to do with relatively greater slack in the manufacturing labor market.


Also note the zero job growth in the retail since Trump took office.   The new rust belt.

EmptyStores_Bleeker Street

This could result in some political pressure on Republicans during the midterms as retail trade is the fourth largest employment sector among private employers.   Also note that in many of the red states,  WalMart is the largest private employer.

Largest employers_Jan26

The retail subsector — warehouse clubs and supercenters —  the category where WalMart lives, has experienced negative job growth under President Trump,  losing 25k (last data point is July) jobs since January 2017.   We suspect automation forced by competition from Amazon as the main jobs destoryer.

The retail average hourly earnings have grown at a compounded annual rate of 2.92 percent under President Trump.

Earnings Growth

The overall nominal average hourly earnings growth rate is running about 46 bps higher under Trump, but the relative purchasing power is offset by higher inflation.  Real wages are slightly higher under Obama than Trump.

Nevertheless, we think the economic impact on the midterm vote is asymmetric from now until the election.  That is only negative shocks will impact the vote on the margin.

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3 Responses to Political Economy Of The Jobs Report

  1. Stephen Reed says:

    This is rich data that will help prove the effectiveness of high protective tariffs. They become more voluntary as the USA makes more goods here, as according to Lincoln.

    You highlight the exact trade off of inflation in wages and CPI, with gdp and employment by sector!

  2. IssacNewton says:

    I would make five (5) additions to this interesting report:

    1. Compare the Obama avg. to the Trump avg over both their terms. This compare’s to Obama 1.9% over eight years and 1.6% in 2016, to Trumps 2.8% See: https://www.bea.gov/national/index.htm#gdp Obama supported the subprime mortage policies that caused the Great Recession.
    2.The Trump job increase has been focused on prime age workers. Under Obama male labor participation dropped 4% to 88% and is now back to 89.1%. Women’s labor participation has experienced greater improvements. See: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/08/02/the-recent-rebound-in-prime-age-labor-force-participation/ From July 15 to April 16, Labor Participation was declining. It is easier to achieve results in that mode. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/08/02/the-recent-rebound-in-prime-age-labor-force-participation/ Trump works where Labor Participation is improving.
    3. The US Real Wage growth has accelerated since 2015, in fact the wages of the bottom 40% are now growing faster than wages of the top 20% (see 2nd figure). See: https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2018/7/31/17632348/wages-lagging-inequality-income-recovery-recession-wage-puzzle-economics This has not happened since before 1990.
    4. Productivity growth (so far) is higher under Trump is was 2015: .9%, 2016: -.6% and 2017: .9%
    5. In an alternate BLS survey . Trump has added 3.842M jobs, he has been adding 202K/Jobs per month (vs. Obama’s 110K new Jobs/month). In 2018 Trump is at 236K new jobs/Month. See: https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES0000000001?output_view=net_1mth

    The other interesting highlight is that some 9% of Obama’s job growth was in govt. jobs, Trump has replaced govt. jobs with manufacturing.

  3. David Howard says:

    Trump’s tariff temper-tantrums are proving an “effectiveness” for stalling the global recovery. Just a minor variation on those typical modern-era RINO econ. policies which have been utter failure for 40+ years now. We are now using tariffs in a vain attempt to prop up sectors instead of reversing disastrous supply-side tax policies and using the code to REWARD domestic production/sourcing. Tariffs will NOT lead to long-term solutions. The #GOPTaxScam merely opened the door broader for the theft of American wealth via off-shoring of profits.

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