What’s really going on in the job market under the Trump administration? Trump supporters and his critics have two entirely different views on the matter. Some say unemployment rates have dropped to an all-time low, while others are a bit skeptical of those numbers.
For example, Forbes reported that manufacturing jobs are growing 714% faster under Trump than Obama. That seems like solid proof of growth. In fact, other sources report similar growth and the numbers do add up.
A Fox Business Contributor reported the creation of 259,000 new manufacturing jobs in just 12 months, which is the fastest growth since 1998. Industrial companies are reporting an increase in new orders (10%), production (17%), and employment (14%). Surely, there must be some truth to this.
In March 2019, CNBC reported some profound statistics from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. January 2019 was the eleventh month in a row that there were more job openings than available workers. The data suggests that a newfound strength in manufacturing is here to stay. Despite the clear numbers, not everyone agrees on what’s happening.
Another Forbes article says Trump’s job gains are simply a continuation of what Obama set in motion. Prior to being elected, Trump promised 25 million new jobs in ten years. That sounded like a hefty campaign promise. However, the data indicates it will only take a 2% yearly growth in the workforce for Trump to hit that target.
The article explains that Trump began his administration with the advantage of a larger workforce than when Obama took office. Employment gains under the Obama administration (at a rate of 2.42 million jobs per year) were already on track to reach 25 million jobs in ten years. A continued 2% growth would add 2.9 million jobs per year, or 29 million jobs over the course of ten years. Trump doesn’t need to do much if things continue the way they’ve been going.
There’s more to a booming job market than available jobs
The big question almost nobody’s asking is if there’s more to the story than just available jobs. Are there more factors that need to be accounted for prior to declaring a booming job market?
Another Forbes article points out three things that should happen if the job market is as good as the media says it is. For example:
- Wages of currently employed people should rise. If there’s a shortage of available workers, there would also be an increase in pressure to keep employees from being taken by rival corporations, which is often prevented by raising salaries. However, worker’s wages are stagnant and have been for some time.
- Companies should be offering premiums during the recruiting process, but aren’t. Most job seekers aren’t getting good offers from potential employers. There’s little to no incentive to work for one company over another. If there really is a shortage of talented job seekers, then companies would be making generous offers to capture the talent they want.
- If there’s a shortage of job candidates, companies would need to hire people who aren’t qualified for the job just to fill positions. Employers would also have to provide training to those people to make it work. That’s not what’s happening. Browsing around on job sites reveals long lists of qualifications and little pay.
The same Forbes article also suggests some possibilities that paint a different picture than the one the media is projecting. Millions of millennials are working retail or fast food jobs despite their education. Working for minimum wage doesn’t mean the job market is booming. Those who have stopped collecting unemployment checks are no longer included in the data so it looks like the unemployment rate has dropped. People looking for a job are not counted in unemployment data, either.
For many who have jobs, they’re barely scraping by. They show up to work each day like a zombie and wonder when their job will be outsourced or they’ll be replaced. Others have given up looking for a job and are living off of savings or family members.
Let’s be realistic
While the manufacturing sector in the job market might be great, what about the rest? Many people are underemployed and just barely making ends meet. Others can’t make those ends meet despite full-time employment. There’s a much bigger picture than what the media portrays. The reality is more complex than a 5% unemployment rate.
It’s important to look at the source of data as well as what people are actually experiencing to get the whole picture. We’ll probably need to wait another year to see if the job market changes in reality, or if those changes are just occurring on paper.