During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump claimed that his policies would “Make America Great Again,” creating jobs by redressing trade imbalances. He argued that “We will make America the best place in the world to start a business, hire workers, and open a factory,” Trump claimed that he would change policies that “allowed foreign countries to subsidize their goods, devalue their currencies, violate their agreements, and cheat in every way imaginable. Trillions of our dollars and millions of our jobs flowed overseas as a result,” In 2020, President Trump claimed success. “The U.S. economy is “roaring” and ‘the best it has ever been.’ He went as far as to say the nation is “moving forward” at an “unimaginable” pace.”
What does the data show? Has private-sector and manufacturing employment grown more under President Trump than under his predecessor?
While the President made big claims about the benefits of his manufacturing-oriented strategies, the results have fallen short. Nationally, although manufacturing employment grew from 2017 to 2019, it grew at a slower rate than in the period before his term of office. Even excluding the job losses in 2020 that are associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, national manufacturing job growth was no better after President Trump’s inauguration than before he took office. Data is from the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Series, and is for August of each year.
Private sector employment growth has slowed since the Trump administration took office in 2017 compared with the portion of this decade when President Obama was in office. Job growth peaked in 2015 and began a slow decline until 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic caused a sharp decline resulting in nearly 10 million jobs to be lost compared to the prior year.
Non-manufacturing businesses have had a much greater impact on employment change during the past decade than manufacturers. In years when private-sector employment grew, manufacturing employment gains accounted for 10% or less of the growth. When Covid-19 hit, manufacturing job losses were less than 10% of those in other industries in the private sector.
Even excluding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, private-sector and manufacturing employment growth declined during President Trump’s term compared with growth under President Obama. Private sector employment growth peaked in 2015 and declined slowly until 2019. In 2020, hit by the pandemic, employment cratered, dropping by more than 10% in August 2020 compared with the same month in 2019. Manufacturing employment growth between 2017 and 2019 did not differ from that between 2011 and 2016.
To be sure, the country’s economic performance reflects other factors than the administration in power in Washington, D. C. The United States is not an island, with an economy that is isolated from trends in other nations. The Federal Reserve’s control of interest rates and the money supply is as important as the administration’s spending and trade policies. Pandemics like Covid-19 can upset healthy economies. But, the data does not support President Trump’s claims.