Trump Says U.S. Employment is at Lowest in 16 Years. Is it True?
The most recent jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that U.S. jobs lost in September numbered roughly 33,000–primarily due to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, according to the survey–while the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since February of 2001. But despite President Donald Trump’s celebrating the Labor Department survey results on Twitter, the numbers reported may not tell the whole story.
The Trump tweet in question points to the stock market’s success since his election win and what is ostensibly the highest rate of employment for Americans in over a decade. But some have begun questioning the veracity and reliability of the September survey.
Stock Market hits an ALL-TIME high! Unemployment lowest in 16 years! Business and manufacturing enthusiasm at highest level in decades!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2017
Why the September Survey is Not Reliable
There are several reasons as to why many are questioning the reliability of these numbers.
First, as illustrated above, the numbers fail to tell the whole story. With millions of Americans in search of employment opportunities but not being counted as unemployed due to the parameters of the survey, we’re seeing politicians tout gaudy numbers but fail to mention that for the many U.S. citizens, the picture is not quite so rosy.
Another concern with the survey is how reliable the census was during the relief effort in Texas and Florida. With both states being ravaged by massive storms in September, it’s safe to assume that door-to-door survey collection–the methodology of the jobs report–would be difficult to conduct.
While that’s certainly not enough to call the whole survey into question, there is legitimate concern as to just how accurate the collection was. For example, door-to-door survey taking would naturally only work with those who still have homes. Others who lost their place of residence due to the storm would be more likely to reside in areas more gravely affected by the hurricanes, and therefore also more likely to be facing a tougher employment situation.
While the overall survey is likely to be accurate in many of its broad strokes reports, there is room for error that could skew the jobs situation in the U.S. in a more optimistic direction, despite many current and potential problems going unaddressed or under-addressed in the economy.
“Employment Situation Summary,” US Department of Labor Statistics, October 6, 2017.