A couple of weeks ago the government released employment data that I found encouraging.
It’s the kind of data that millions of Americans have been hoping for ever since the Great Recession that began in 2008.
Given the divisive nature of virtually everything even remotely connected to politics in America today, I am confident the data are being analyzed in two ways:
1. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has sparked an economic resurgence.
2. President Barack Obama’s policies are finally working.
I suppose one could get behind either of those positions, but I really don’t care one way or another, I’m just glad things are getting better.
According to the February Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report – the first one to cover a full month of the Trump presidency – a record number of people were employed in February – 152,528,000. That’s 447,000 more than were employed in January.
Another 7,528,000 were looking for work. That means 63 percent of Americans either held a job or were actively looking for one during February. That was the highest labor participation rate in more than 10 months.
The number of people not in the labor force continued to decline. In February, the number was 94,190,000, down from 94,366,000 in January, a decrease of 176,000.
The February not-in-the-labor-force number was 912,000 fewer than the record of 95,102,000 set in December.
Since President Obama took office in January 2009, the number of people not in the labor force had grown by 14,573 people – slightly more 18 percent, to reach the December 2016 record.
(The labor participation rate reached a 38-year low of 62.4 percent in September 2015. In December 2016 it had recovered to 62.7 percent.)
The economy added 235,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rage dropped to 4.7 percent.
Those counted as “not in the labor force” include baby boomer retirees, students, the disabled, homemakers and others who choose not to work for many different reasons.
But lots of those people receive government entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies – most of which are funded using tax dollars provided by people in the workforce.
Out of a “civilian noninstitutionalized” U.S. population of 254,246,000, some 160,056,000 were either working or looking for a job. That brings us back that 63 percent labor participation rate. (“Civilian noninstitutionalized” means all people age 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution.)
According to the BLS, the unemployment rate among whites decreased to 4.1 percent. The unemployment rate for adult men, adult women, teenagers, blacks Asians and Hispanics showed little or no change. Those unemployment rates, respectively, were 4.3 percent, 4.3 percent, 15 percent, 8.1 percent, 3.4 percent and 5.6 percent.
BLS says in February, among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate decreased for whites to 4.1 percent, while the jobless rates for adult men (4.3 percent), adult women (4.3 percent), teenagers (15.0 percent),  blacks (8.1 percent), Asians (3.4 percent), and Hispanics (5.6 percent) showed little or no change.
Another bright spot in the jobs report was that the U.S. added 28,000 manufacturing jobs and 8,000 government jobs in February. In January and February, the tally was 39,000 manufacturing jobs and 25,000 government jobs.
Does this mean we’re seeing a trend toward more manufacturing jobs and away from more government jobs? If so, that’s a good thing.
That’s because government jobs far outpace manufacturing jobs in the U.S. There are 9,942,000 more government jobs than factory jobs, according to the BLS. (At least that number is down from 9,956,000 in December.)
The February manufacturing jobs blip is even more significant when you consider that from February 2016 to February 2017 the U.S. added 7,000 manufacturing jobs while adding 194,000 government jobs.
According to BLS, the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. reached its peak in June 1979. At that time, there were 19,533,000 manufacturing jobs. That number today stands at  12,382,000 – a decline of 7,151,000.
By contrast, during that same time period, government jobs grew from 16,045,000 to today’s 22,324,000 – an increase of 6,279,000.
Certainly, a one-month increase in manufacturing jobs does not a trend make, but it certainly is nice to see the number of manufacturing jobs outpacing government jobs.
I hope that these trends continue, because if they do, it will mean more rapid growth in Gross Domestic Product, which some economists have been predicting.
A January CNBC report outlined a Deutsche Bank forecast for U.S. GDP.
The forecast says President Trump's policies have the potential to “trigger a new age in U.S. economic growth that could serve as a global template.”
The Deutsche Bank report says Trump’s agenda – cutting regulations across a broad swath of critical sectors, enacting tax reform that slashes personal and corporate taxes, and calling for at least $1 trillion in improvements for bridges, roads and other public projects – could double growth in GDP.
"This policy mix has the potential of reigniting productivity growth and raising U.S. growth potential," David Folkerts-Landau, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, said in a report for clients. "While Trump introduces higher uncertainty, this is better than the near certainty of the continuation of a mediocre status quo."
The bank says 2017 growth could rise to 2.4 percent and up to 3.6 percent in 2018. By comparison, the economy grew an average of about 1.6 percent a year under President Obama, the worst recovery since the Great Depression. Obama is the first president since Herbert Hoover not to see at least 3 percent growth for a calendar year, CNBC reported.
I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m not going to predict anything. Let’s just say I really hope this particular analyst is right and leave it at that.