Donald Trump is not going to think October’s jobs report is huuuge. But Hillary Clinton is likely to be smiling.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that the U.S. economy added 161,000 new jobs, with the unemployment rate falling slightly to 4.9%. It also revised up previous estimates of job growth to add 49,000 previously unrecorded jobs to the economy, suggesting that there is little need to make the economy Great Again, as our jobs machine continues to chug along even as the unemployment rate hits historically low levels.
Observers has predicted that a good October jobs number might sway some undecided voters to Clinton, who is more likely to keep in place Obama’s policies that Trump. Trump has run on the fact that the economy is essentially not growing, and that he can revive it.
But perhaps the most important statistic in Friday’s report, and the best one for the Hillary camp, is that average hourly earnings rose by 2.8% year-over-year, the highest since June of 2009. Slow wage growth is likely why many Americans think the economy is still stuck in the mud, despite the unemployment rate being below 5%.
The data confirms others we have seen recent months, like a Census Bureau Survey which showed that last year Americans got a bigger raise than during any year since the 1960s, when the Census began recording this measure.
Meanwhile, broader measures of unemployment also fell. The U-6 unemployment rate—which also counts as unemployed those who want work but haven’t looked for work in a long time and those who are working part time but want full time jobs—also fell from 9.7% to 9.5%, it’s lowest level since May of 2008.
All of this is happening against a backdrop of an increasing labor force participation rate. Though labor force participation has been falling for decades now as the labor force ages—a trend that was accelerated by the weak economy following the Great Recession—it has ticked up this year. That means that we aren’t seeing falling unemployment rates as a result of people leaving the workforce, a common critique of those bearish on the U.S. economy.
Economically, Friday’s report was great news for the American people. And the conventional political wisdom is a that an improving economy is good for the incumbent party in a presidential race, which is good news for Hillary Clinton. Luckily for Republicans, however, it may be too little too late. The data show that in terms of the economy, voters form their opinions in the first 7 months or so of a presidential year, and the economic data as of the end of the summer was tilting more in Donald Trump’s favor.