by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There’s a word to describe December’s jobs report: Wow! With 312,000 new jobs in December, employment growth was much stronger than anyone anticipated. That’s especially true given recent squishy economic data. The jobs boom continues, a sign that there’s still a lot of life left in the economy after all.
There’s really no way to spin December’s jobs data in a negative way. Not only did the number of jobs come in at nearly twice the consensus estimate, but the two previous months were revised up by 58,000. So the report was really much stronger than even the headline number indicates.
Since President Donald Trump took office nearly two years ago, some 4.8 million new payroll jobs have been created. That’s more than four times as many as created during President Obama’s first four years.
Hold on, you say, didn’t the unemployment rate jump from 3.7% to 3.9%? It did. Yes, but not because more people were unemployed, but because more people entered the labor force, seeking opportunities that didn’t exist before.
It’s actually a bullish sign. Some 419,000 people entered the workforce during the month, driving the labor force participation rate to 63.1%, up from 62.7% a year ago. That bellwether employment figure declined pretty consistently during the job-poor Obama years, from 65.7% when Obama entered office to 62.9% when he left. It stabilized under Trump. Last month’s 63.1% tied for the highest point since September 2013.