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Trump Touts Positive Economic News With Strong July Jobs Report


Employers in the U.S. are doing a lot of hiring. And that can be seen in the new report from the Labor Department today. It says payrolls grew last month by a better-than-expected 209,000 jobs. The unemployment rate went down to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent. The economy continues to follow a track we've seen since before President Trump took office. But that's not stopping him from taking credit for it. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The Labor Department issued its jobs report at 8:30 this morning. And within 15 minutes, the president was on Twitter, cheering the news. He also tabbed the announcement that Toyota and Mazda plan to jointly build a $1.6 billion auto assembly plant in the U.S. Trump had touched on that theme during a campaign-style rally in West Virginia last night.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to bring back our plants and our factories and our manufacturing. And that's what's happening right now. And you see it. And so does every other state in our union.

HORSLEY: This week, Trump has also been trumpeting the news that a Taiwanese electronics maker plans to open a factory in Wisconsin. And he's repeatedly called attention to the new highs being set by the stock market.


TRUMP: We want more growth, more jobs and higher pay. And that's what's going to happen.


HORSLEY: American workers are still not seeing big pay raises. Average pay is up about 2.5 percent over the last year. But chief economist Nariman Behravesh of IHS Markit says July was the second month in a row that employers added more than 200,000 jobs.

NARIMAN BEHRAVESH: Just as important, the growth in the civilian labor force has strengthened recently, suggesting that U.S. workers are more confident about finding jobs and are coming back into the labor force.

HORSLEY: But Behravesh says that turnaround didn't begin with the Trump administration. Job growth during the first seven months of this year is almost exactly the same as it was in 2016 under former President Obama.

BEHRAVESH: This is really the economy doing its own thing left to its own devices. So even though politicians may take credit for this, Washington really has had very little to do with what's going on in the U.S. economy.

HORSLEY: Even so, veteran political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says politicians often get credit or blame for economic conditions, whether they deserve it or not.

STUART ROTHENBERG: In a normal environment, month after month of good economic news would help the press.

HORSLEY: But Rothenberg, who's senior editor for Inside Elections, says this is not a normal environment. Trump's approval rating is less than 40 percent. And both his supporters and his critics are dug in. Rothenberg says just as the president's diehard fans are unfazed by his stalled legislative agenda or personnel shakeups at the White House, hardcore opponents are not likely to warm to Trump no matter how many help wanted signs go up or how high the stock market climbs.

ROTHENBERG: People who are unhappy with the president are unhappy because of what he says and how he says it. And they're not going to see these job numbers as a sign that he's successful. I think many of them are not going to want him to be successful.

HORSLEY: To be sure, the president has taken steps to cut regulations on business. And both Trump and the GOP Congress are determined to cut taxes. It's not clear whether they'll be successful in that effort. But managing director Michael McNiven of Cumberland Advisors says even if they're not, the economy is poised for continued growth.

MICHAEL MCNIVEN: There is a saying - let Congress and government do what it does best, which is nothing.

HORSLEY: Following Congress's lead, the president starts his summer vacation this afternoon. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.