Oct 2, 2020 - Economy

The Trump jobs record

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The final glimpse of the labor market before election day comes this morning, and it’s expected to show job growth continuing at a slower pace.

Why it matters: President Trump, who is using his record on the economy as a key message on the campaign trail, heads into election with a labor market that has been ravaged by the pandemic and is still millions of jobs in the hole.

Flashback: Before the pandemic hit, the labor market was flourishing for large swaths of America, with the unemployment rate near a 50-year low.

Yes, but: The job gains under Trump continued the upward trend that began under Barack Obama.

  • And check out the chart above: without annotations or dates, it would be impossible to see where Obama ends and Trump begins.

By the numbers: The economy would need to add over 11 million jobs to return to where it was in February.

  • That almost certainly didn't happen in September — and it’s far above Wall Street’s most optimistic estimate of roughly 1 million jobs added last month.

What to watch: Prospects for the labor market are dimming, as businesses feel the weight of the coronavirus.

  • This week was among the worst for the labor market in recent history, with tens of thousands of workers laid off at America’s biggest businesses — including 28,000 workers at Disney theme parks.
  • Airlines are beginning to let go of 32,000 employees, in the absence of additional stimulus from Washington.
  • None of these losses will appear in the jobs report, since the survey period ended in mid-September.

The bottom line: Economists warn it will be years before the labor market recovers — if the jobs come back at all.

  • “This is not an environment for creating new jobs. The pandemic is still going. The economy is still in a very severe downturn,” Brian Rose, an economist at UBS — who expects that 5 million Americans who lost work because of the pandemic will become permanent job losers — tells Axios.
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