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Andy Puzder: Unpacking Joe Biden’s lies about the Trump job-creation miracle

Try as they might, Democrats, the media and the blue-check Twitterati can’t wish away President Trump’s enormously successful stewardship of the US economy.

“You talk about the economy booming,” moderator Chris Wallace told Trump at this week’s presidential debate. But “in Obama’s final three years as president, more jobs were created, a million and a half more jobs, than in the first three years of your presidency.” Wallace was echoing one of the Biden campaign’s favorite talking points.

But here’s the thing: That talking point depends on misleading and cherry-picked data.

Most significantly, it ignores the worker shortage during Trump’s second and third years in office. Obviously, it’s harder to add jobs when employers can’t find workers. But rather than an economic shortcoming, this shortage was a result of the Trump economy “booming,” producing job openings so abundant that they exceeded the number of people looking for work — by a lot.

It’s called a tight labor market, and it’s good for workers, as economists of every stripe agree.

This worker shortage was the defining difference between the Obama-Biden era and Trump’s first three years in office.

Every month, the National Federation of Independent Businesses asks business owners to name “the most important problem facing your business today.” The No. 1 and No. 2 most important problems under Obama-Biden were — not surprisingly — high taxes and burdensome, unpredictable government regulation. Should we elect Biden president, those will once again be the foremost problems facing businesses.

By contrast, once Trump cut taxes and slashed regulations in 2017, business growth accelerated, and business owners identified “finding qualified workers” as the most pressing problem they faced. The numbers — the full numbers — prove the point.

For the eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, there wasn’t a single month when job openings exceeded the number of people unemployed. Zero.

In fact, when Obama and Biden left office in January 2017, there were 1.9 million more people unemployed than there were job openings. So there was an abundance of people looking for work, but too few jobs opportunities open to them.

A little more than a year later, in March 2018, that situation had reversed. Following Trump’s regulatory overhaul and passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employment openings exceeded the number of people unemployed for the first time on records going back to 2000.

Astoundingly, that remained the case for 24 consecutive months — until the pandemic — with over 1 million more job openings than people unemployed for 17 of those months.

This unprecedented competition for workers had extremely positive consequences. It lowered the unemployment rate, which consistently hit 50-year lows, and as a result, employers began competing for workers and raising wages.

In August 2018, year-over-year wage growth exceeded 3 percent for the first time in nearly a decade and stayed at or above 3 percent for 20 consecutive months until the pandemic. By comparison, under Team Obama-Biden there wasn’t a single post-recession month when wage growth exceeded 3 percent. Again, zero.

With wages rising, people started coming out of the woodwork to fill those abundant good-paying job openings. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 74.2 percent of workers who took jobs came from outside the labor force rather than the ranks of the unemployed. That was the highest percentage since 1990, when the government began reporting such data.

By contrast, under the Obama-Biden administration, people fled the labor force, discouraged by limited opportunities and stagnant wages. During Biden’s eight years in office, the labor force participation rate — the share of people working or actively looking for work — dropped from 65.7 to 62.8 percent. During Trump’s first three pre-pandemic years, it rose back up to 63.4 percent, as people rejoined the labor force.

Thus, when Trump talks about “a booming economy,” he is absolutely correct. Wallace’s question ignored the overwhelmingly positive impact of Trump’s policies on businesses and workers alike.

Before a once-in-a-generation pandemic decimated the whole global economy, Trump took the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression and turned it into the strongest labor market in modern times, maybe ever. Democrats cherry-picking the economic data to make it appear otherwise won’t change that reality.

Andy Puzder a senior fellow at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, served for 16 years as CEO of CKE Restaurants. Twitter: @AndyPuzder

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Posted: October 1, 2020 Thursday 07:56 PM