Two industries that President Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to revitalize during his campaign, coal mining and manufacturing, saw employment gains in the February jobs report. But one analyst says his nascent presidency is not necessarily responsible for those gains.
“There’s a perception that just because things are happening now that it’s associated with other events that are happening now and that’s not at all the case,” said Tara Sinclair, an Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University. “A lot of this is build up of several years from economic improvement.”
Manufacturing jobs increased by 28,000 in February, for a total increase of 57,000 over the last three months dating back to the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. At this time last year, the United States had lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, according to CNN.
Jobs in the mining industry increased by 8,000 in February, the same month Trump rolled back an Obama-era coal mining regulation aimed at preventing the industry from putting mining waste in nearby water. Mining jobs have increased by 20,000 since hitting a recent low in October 2016.
Workers in these industries are the type of people Trump appealed to frequently on the campaign trail, vowing to bring back their jobs. So are they getting what they wished for? It’s not quite that simple,. Sinclair acknowledged the positive trends for these two industries, but said it wasn’t as if Trump entered the Oval Office, waved a magic wand, and revitalized them.
“That is definitely the wrong takeaway,” Sinclair said. “It’s going to take a lot more than that.”
Rather, Sinclair said, the increases could be the result of an economy that was already during Obama’s presidency, long before the first jobs report of Trump’s presidency beat economists’ expectations.
Milder than usual winter weather has also been credited for the positive jobs report overall.
Trade organizations like the National Mining Association and National Association of Manufacturers, however, were inclined to give more credit to the Trump Administration’s emphasis on promoting deregulation and domestic manufacturing as a cause for these gains.
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released a statement praising the “Trump bump” in the jobs report. “Across America, manufacturers’ confidence is high, and business optimism continues to soar, because of President Donald Trump’s laser focus on policies that will accelerate a jobs surge in America,” Timmons said.
Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, said that in anticipation of these policies, manufacturing companies were hiring more.
“When I talk to a bunch of manufacturers they are optimistic about things coming down the pipe,” he said in an interview. “It’s too early to say if he is fulfilling campaign promises because it’s February but you’ve seen regulatory rollback that I think gives manufacturers reasons for hope.”
Moutray did echo Sinclair, though, in noting that the gains were also partially due to an expanding global economy.
Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, said the increase in coal jobs is further proof the industry is on the upswing.
“Our industry has noticed an improvement in fortunes since he [Trump] was elected and the regulatory relief that he offered,” said Popovich, who wrote shortly after the election about the positive impact Trump’s presidency could have on the coal industry.
Sinclair did not rule out the possibility that deregulation could improve employment prospects in coal mining. But overall, she said, these gains are only a fraction of the lost jobs Trump has pledged to bring back.
“Particularly with manufacturing, we’re never going back to the peaks that we saw before, particularly in terms of employment,” she said. “There are still people who didn’t see job gains that voted for Trump and he is going to have a hard time meeting those expectations.”
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