The U.S. labor market is the strongest it has been in the last half century, as President Trump’s pro-growth economic policies continue boosting labor demand and lowering structural barriers to entering the labor market. Economic data presented in the 2020 Economic Report of the President, which was released today, show that recent labor market gains disproportionately benefit Americans who were previously left behind.
Since the 2016 election, the economy has added 7 million jobs, far exceeding the 2.0 million predicted by the Congressional Budget Office in its final pre-2016 election forecast. Under the Trump Administration, and for the first time on record, there are more job openings than unemployed people. In 2019, the U.S. unemployment rate has reached 3.5 percent, the lowest rate in five decades. Falling unemployment reduced the share of the population on unemployment insurance to the lowest level since recording began in 1967. Importantly, the African American unemployment rate has hit the lowest level on record, and series lows have also been matched or achieved for Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, veterans, those without a high school degree, and persons with disabilities, among others.
Record-low unemployment rates are being set even as people are coming off the labor market’s sidelines. At the end of 2019, nearly three-quarters of people entering employment came from out of the labor force—the highest rate on record. And the prime-age labor force is growing under President Trump (+2.2 million), reversing losses under the prior administration’s expansion period (-1.5 million).
The Trump Administration’s policies are not only leading to more jobs but also to higher pay. While nominal wage growth for all private-sector workers has been at or above 3 percent for a year and a half, wage growth for many historically-disadvantaged groups is now higher than wage growth for more historically-advantaged groups—reversing trends observed over the Obama Administration’s expansion period, as shown in the figure below.
The benefits of a strong labor market are widespread. Net worth held by the bottom 50 percent of households has increased by 47 percent under President Trump—more than three times the rate of increase for the top 1 percent of households. To put these gains into perspective, the growth in wealth for the bottom half of households under the Trump Administration is roughly three times the Federal spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) from 2017 through 2019.
Additionally, by promoting economic freedom, major deregulatory actions under the Trump Administration will further increase household incomes and lower inequality. Because of regulatory reform, the average American family will save $3,100 a year once recent reforms are fully in effect.
Rather than overregulating, the Trump Administration supports private-sector innovation and investment in the energy sector, which leads to tangible benefits for all Americans. For example, gains in shale drilling productivity have led to lower prices for natural gas, gasoline, electricity, and oil—saving the average American family of four $2,500 a year. Notably, shale-driven savings represent a much larger percentage of income for the poorest fifth of households (6.8 percent) than for the richest fifth (1.3 percent). This is the case with most instances of deregulation. For example, savings from deregulation of prescription drugs and internet access as a share of household income are eight times greater for the bottom fifth of households than for the top fifth.
A booming job market and more money in Americans’ pockets continue pulling people out of poverty and off means-tested welfare programs. Over the first two years of the Trump Administration, the number of people living in poverty decreased by about 2.5 million—including nearly 1 million children of single mothers—and the poverty rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at record lows. Food insecurity has fallen, and there are nearly 7 million fewer people participating in SNAP than there were at the time of the 2016 election. The caseload for TANF has fallen by more than 900,000 individuals, and the number of individuals on Social Security Disability Insurance has fallen by almost 400,000 since the 2016 election. Similarly, Medicaid & CHIP enrollment reported by States is down by 3 million.
There are still barriers that prevent lower-income workers from realizing the full benefits of the strong labor market. The Trump Administration is reducing these barriers to both labor demand and supply by incentivizing private investment in disadvantaged areas through Opportunity Zones, making housing more affordable, and combatting the opioid crisis. Successful reforms in these areas will grow the economy by ensuring that all American households can benefit from strong, sustained economic growth.
Contrary to the discredited narrative that the Trump economy only benefits the rich, economic evidence confirms that the President’s policies allow historically-disadvantaged Americans to lift up themselves and their families. In other words, today’s economy is proof that pro-growth policies are the best way to deliver inclusive growth to Americans of all backgrounds.