Donald Trump has attacked the government’s official economic data this summer, calling it “fake” or “fake news.” He likes to say that the “real” figure for employment statistics or the inflation rate would be much more favorable to him, and would look worse to President Joe Biden.
It’s a return to form for the former president who called the unemployment rate “total fiction” during his 2016 campaign before taking a look at and promoting that same data once he was in office.
This time, Yahoo Finance found at least six recent instances where Trump dismissed inflation and jobs data. In one example, during a speech in Arizona in July, Trump mischaracterized an already record inflation reading of 9.1%. “Biden created the worst inflation in 47 years,” he said. “We’re at 9.1%, but the real number is much, much higher than that.” Besides offering no evidence for his claim, the 9.1% figure is the highest increase in 40 years, not 47.
“It’s not based on reality or an accurate understanding of the experiences of Americans. It’s just based on a political narrative,” Aaron Sojourner, a former senior labor economist at the Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. the White House under Presidents Obama and Trump.
He added, referring to Trump: “He just makes stuff up.”
Trump’s unsubstantiated dismissals of economic data appear to be a hallmark of a third presidential bid he could announce as early as this year. Also, his campaign will likely feature an all-out attack on the FBI after it raids his home for a possible violation of the Espionage Act. Trump is also likely to focus on his business practices and plans to fire thousands of government employees who are traditionally insulated from politics.
Multiple requests to representatives of the former president to back up his claims went unanswered.
Cast doubt on official statistics highlighted by Trump’s 2016 campaign. The then-candidate called the official jobs report false or false at least 19 times, according to a Washington Post count.
Trump then echoed a trend among figures on the right who were quick to question any good economic news under then-President Obama’s watch. The late former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch, for example, once claimed that “those guys from Chicago” changed the numbers to improve their political standing.
But for Trump, his tone suddenly changed once in office.
During a panel discussion with manufacturers in 2017, he said of the unemployment rate, then 4.3%, that “for a long time they didn’t matter, but now I take those numbers very proudly.”
Then-press secretary Sean Spicer also stunned reporters that year when he told them he had spoken to Trump about the jobs data “and said he was quoting him very clearly: ‘They may have been false in the past, but now it is very real. .’ “
Both the unemployment rate and the consumer price index, the most commonly cited measure of inflation, are compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is no evidence that the group, a division of the US Department of Labor, has changed its methods of gathering and disseminating information between presidential administrations.
“They are very professional, very scientific [and] they do their job every month completely over the top,” says Sojourner, who is currently a labor economist at the WE Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. “We can argue about the interpretation of what they mean to some extent, but they follow very reliable procedures to be accurate . labor market statistics”.
For Trump, in what may continue until the 2024 election, the numbers are false again.
At a rally in May, Trump said of the 3.6 percent unemployment rate: “That’s not true, that’s not right — it’s fake news.” He followed it up with a post on Truth Social, his social media platform, adding that “[m]millions of people who are unemployed but not looking for work make that number FALSE, like so many other things in our failed country.” He repeated a version of the claim again at a rally in Illinois later that month.
Trump appears to be referring to the civilian labor force level, which stood at 164.6 million Americans in February 2020, just before the COVID pandemic hit. Contrary to Trump’s claims, the metric has returned to a similar level in recent months under President Biden, drawing from labor losses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, the most recent employment report found that total non-farm employment has fully recovered to its pre-pandemic level. As of February 2020, the survey found the labor force to be 152.504 million Americans. In July 2022, this number was 152.536 million.
In more recent appearances this summer, Trump has focused on inflation. In a speech in Arizona on July 22, he said flatly that inflation was much higher than the 9.1% year-on-year rate reported in June.
A few days later, during a speech in Washington, DC on July 26, he did some hedging, saying that “a lot of people think it’s a lot higher than that.”
This month, during a speech in Dallas, he said of the inflation rate: “I think it’s a lot higher than that, by the way.”
More recently, inflation moderated in the July figures as falling gas prices led to a smaller-than-expected 8.5% year-on-year increase in the consumer price index. Month-on-month inflation was flat with increases in things like food offset by lower fuel prices.
If inflation continues to cool, it is very likely that Trump will increase the frequency of his statements that the data is cooked. But don’t expect economists like Sojourner to take the claims seriously.
“I do not think so [Trump’s] false claims deserve good faith interpretation,” he says.
Ben Werschkul is a Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.
Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance
Follow Yahoo Finance at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, LinkedIn, YouTubei reddit.
Last weekend, I wrote about Warren Mosler's argument that the Fed's rate hikes could be…
Last weekend, I he wrote on Warren Mosler's argument that the Fed's rate hikes could…
Last week, the chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell said, "the disinflationary process has begun".…
Earlier this week, I joined Romaine Bostick and Scarlet Fu Bloomberg TV. The Congressional Budget…
Tomorrow morning, I'll be joining CNBC's Squawk Box to talk about a new effort tax…
Former Vice President Mike Pence talks about privatizing Social Security. The remarks came Thursday before…