Last week, the Trump administration responded enthusiastically to the findings of the February jobs report. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained the president’s take on the numbers during a press conference last Friday.
“I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly,” Spicer said in response to a question from CNBC’s Eamon Javers about Trump’s take on the legitimacy of the report’s findings. “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”
The report brings mostly good news
Spicer had conveyed a similarly positive message about the jobs report earlier that day:
Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for @POTUS Trump
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 10, 2017
These numbers are positive. They indicate that the economy and the jobs market is strong. However, others have cautioned against overstating the matter. There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to the labor market. And, these numbers could reflect other factors, like a warmer than average winter in the Northeast, for example. Still, this report reflects good news and a strong job market.Spicer: The jobs report 'may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now.'Click To Tweet
A history of questioning unemployment data
The jobs report may be receiving somewhat mixed reviews. But, in many ways that’s common. These numbers should be carefully scrutinized and analyzed by people who bring different perspectives to the table. What’s extraordinary is the Trump administration’s response to numbers like these over time.
Previously, the administration had expressed more than a little doubt about the legitimacy of unemployment figures. When NPR’s Mara Liasson asked Mr. Spicer about President Trump’s take on these figures last month he said that Trump was, “not focused on statistics as much as he is on whether or not the American people are doing better as a whole.”
Comments like these, combined with statements made by Trump during the election, spurred reporter Eamon Javers to question the president’s response to the latest figures. The question now becomes, will this perspective change again? Will positive numbers be viewed as “real” and the rest dismissed?
CNN’s Jake Tapper recently questioned President Trump’s budget director about unemployment data. His response was dramatic and surprising.
“What you should really look at is the number of jobs created,” Mick Mulvaney told Tapper on State of the Union. “We’ve thought for a long time, I did, that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers, in terms of the number of people in the workforce, to make the unemployment rate – that percentage rate – look smaller than it actually was.”
But, there is no evidence that the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is responsible for compiling this data, has manipulated their statistics. Nor is there any reason to believe that President Obama did so.
This latest turn of the wheel was in President Trump’s favor, and so the data is being praised by White House officials. We’ll have to wait to see how they’ll respond as things move forward. But, if the past is any indication, we’re in for more twists and turns.
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