Fact Checker

Fact Checker: President Donald Trump touts economic gains on his watch

Before the Iowa caucuses earlier this month, President Donald Trump placed a full-page advertisement in the Des Moines Register attacking Democratic rivals saying they will “Kill Iowa Jobs.”

In the ad, Trump made eight claims about his record “fighting for the economy” as president.

Fact Checker focused on five of those claims. The other three are either subjective or based on data not yet available, so they did not meet our criteria of being verifiable. We reached out to the Trump campaign for sourcing but did not receive a response.

Claim: “Over 7 million new jobs created.”

Analysis: Trump was elected Nov. 8, 2016, and took office Jan. 20, 2017. Depending on when counting begins, the numbers vary. Trump has made this claim a number of times, and in some cases ties it to Election Day. We took this claim as stated and measured since he took office in January, counting his first 37 months as president.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show since January 2017, 6.74 million jobs have been created. Another measure of total nonfarm, seasonally adjusted employment shows the labor force has grown by 6.6 million, from 145.6 million in January 2017 to 152.2 million workers in January 2020.

If we track since Trump’s election, we find 7.1 million jobs created and the labor force has grown by 6.97 million people. For comparison, during President Barack Obama’s last 37 months, the workforce grew by 8 million jobs and 8.14 million jobs were created.

Grade: With rounding, Trump is close to the 7 million figure, but saying it is “over” 7 million is not true. We give him a B.

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Claim: “1 million new jobs in manufacturing, construction and energy sectors.”

Analysis: The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report this month analyzing industrial employment trends from January 2017 to January 2020. The report found 495,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created since Trump took office.

The sector saw significant gains in his first two years, but job growth has dropped dramatically in the past year, including net zero job creation in the past four months.

Growth in construction has been more steady and yielded 773,000 new jobs since January 2017.

Energy sector jobs are not tracked in a comprehensive way, with numerous jobs that could fall into this category, and it is not clear which numbers Trump is using.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report found about 60,000 mining jobs had been added, up from 600,000 to 660,000, while 10,000 utilities jobs had been lost from around 557,000 to 547,000.

The U.S. Energy and Employment Report by the Energy Futures Initiative, which is led by former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and the National Association of State Energy Officials, based on a survey administered to over 30,000 employers across 53 different energy technologies, found total energy and energy efficiency jobs had increased from 6.56 million in 2017 to 6.7 million in 2018.

Grade: A.

Claim: “Lowest unemployment in over half a century.”

Analysis: BLS has a database showing monthly unemployment rates all the way back to 1948. Since the start of 1970 — the half-century Trump specifies — the 3.5 percent unemployment recorded in September, November and December 2019 was the lowest the United States has seen. Unemployment nudged up to 3.6 percent in January, the Bureau reported.

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There have been five years since 1947 when the United States had months with lower unemployment than in 2019. These were 3.4 percent in 1948 and 1969, 3 percent in 1951, 2.8 percent in 1952 and 2.6 percent in 1953.

Unemployment numbers provide an incomplete picture of the job market because they don’t count people who have stopped looking for work or otherwise cycled out of the program. Still, Trump’s claim is true.

Graded an A

Grade: A

Claim: The next claim goes further, saying the United States has experienced “all-time low unemployment for women, blacks, Latinos and Asians,” during the Trump administration.

Analysis: Women’s unemployment, as reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, closely mirrors the overall numbers, with ups and downs over the decades. While September was low at 3.4 percent, even fewer women were out of work in May 1953, when the unemployment rate for women was 2.7 percent, the Fed reported.

So the first part of Trump’s claim isn’t right. But let’s look at unemployment by race.

CNN reported in September that 2019 had brought record low unemployment for blacks and workers who identified as Hispanic or Latino. For blacks, the 5.4 percent unemployment in August is by far the lowest since 1972, the first year the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data online.

Hispanic workers had a 3.9 percent unemployment rate in September, the lowest since 1973, the bureau reported.

The Fed’s data on unemployment of Asian workers in this country goes back only to 2000, but it shows the 2 percent unemployment rate in May 2018 was the lowest in the last 20 years.

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Grade: Trump gets this mostly right. However, he said “all-time low” and that’s inaccurate for women and it seems as if it’s hard to say all-time for Asians, whose unemployment has been tracked for only 20 years. We give him a B.

Claim: “Year-round sale of E15 as promised.”

Analysis: Trump vowed to lift a summertime ban on the sale of E15, a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, to open new markets for American corn farmers and biofuel producers.

Clean Air Act requirements had restricted E15 between June 1 and Sept. 15 because the fuel exceeded allowable volatility levels during a time when liquid evaporates into the air more readily, thus leading to more smog, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Farm lobbyists had argued little difference exists between E15 and E10 in terms of creating smog.

Under orders from Trump in October 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expanded fuel blend waivers, saying in a May 2019 statement, “This removes the most significant barrier to wider sales of E15 in the summer months ... thus expanding the market for ethanol in transportation fuel.”

Grade: A.

Conclusion

The president has faced criticisms for false statements during his term, but in this ad — at least in the statements we could verify — Trump is mostly on point.

He has a couple of minor slip-ups, including saying he’s created “over” 7 million jobs — it’s slightly under — and saying unemployment among women is at an all-time low — it was lower in May 1953 — but he is mostly accurate. We give him an A.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate and/or officeholder or a national candidate and/or officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.

Claims must be independently verifiable.

We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

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This Fact Checker was researched and written by reporters B.A. Morelli and Erin Jordan of The Gazette.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.