What to Watch on Jobs Day: How the Trump administration stacks up against an economy on autopilot

Friday marks the first full year of Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation reports since the beginning of the Trump administration. Put simply, overall economic growth and the labor market are healthier today than they’ve been in years, and President Trump and his supporters have been quick to claim credit for this relative health. These are ridiculous claims. An analogy might help. A person’s health is a function of many variables: genetics, diet, exercise, and environmental factors, for example. Eventually, of course, almost everyone will at some point in their life need access to quality medical care to remain healthy. But, noting that somebody is healthy at a given point in time says nothing about whether their doctor is competent or not. The Trump administration was handed an economy and a labor market whose health had improved radically (if too slowly) over the preceding eight years, and which was trending steadily in an even better direction. Macroeconomic trends tend to have lots of momentum, so we shouldn’t be shocked that this recovery has continued. But nothing the Trump administration has done has boosted its trajectory.

Friday’s jobs report will give us an opportunity to look at the last year in the context of what we would have expected from an economy that was completely on autopilot, just moving along its preexisting trajectory.

EPI’s Autopilot Economy Tracker focuses on four key measures: the unemployment rate, the prime-age employment-to-population ratio, wage growth, and payroll employment growth. Here I’ll take each in turn—I’ll look again on Friday to see what story the newest data tell.

The overall unemployment rate continued the downward trend it has been on since its peak in 2010, hitting a business cycle low of 4.1 percent in 2017. EPI’s autopilot tracker predicted a fall to 4.0 percent by 2019. So far, the unemployment rate is mildly beating autopilot expectations. The figure below disaggregates the unemployment rate by race and ethnicity. While the monthly data for these sub-groups are quite volatile due to relative small sample sizes, the tracker suggests that the white non-Hispanic and Hispanic (any race) unemployment declines also slightly exceeded pre-2017 trends. However, the much touted black unemployment rate of 6.8 percent is right on track to what an economy on autopilot would have yielded given recent trends. One potential reason why unemployment declines have been faster than pre-2017 trends is that before 2017, labor market improvements could have been registering partly in improved labor force participation and falling involuntary part-time employment. If these margins are adjusting less as the economy gets healthier, the unemployment rate will be the primary way labor market strength registers.

Unemployment rate by race and ethnicity, 1995–2019 (projected)

Date White Autopilot projection  Black Autopilot projection  Hispanic Autopilot projection 
Jan-1995 4.8 10.3 10.2
Feb-1995 4.7 10.1 9.0
Mar-1995 4.7 9.7 8.9
Apr-1995 5.0 10.7 8.9
May-1995 5.0 10.0 9.8
Jun-1995 4.9 10.7 9.1
Jul-1995 4.9 10.9 8.8
Aug-1995 4.9 11.1 9.6
Sep-1995 4.9 11.1 9.1
Oct-1995 4.9 10.0 9.4
Nov-1995 5.0 9.7 9.5
Dec-1995 4.9 10.2 9.3
Jan-1996 4.9 10.6 9.4
Feb-1996 4.8 10.0 9.6
Mar-1996 4.8 10.6 9.6
Apr-1996 4.8 10.7 9.6
May-1996 4.9 10.2 9.6
Jun-1996 4.6 10.4 8.8
Jul-1996 4.7 10.6 8.8
Aug-1996 4.4 10.6 8.8
Sep-1996 4.5 10.6 8.2
Oct-1996 4.5 10.7 8.0
Nov-1996 4.6 10.6 8.5
Dec-1996 4.6 10.5 7.4
Jan-1997 4.5 10.8 8.4
Feb-1997 4.5 10.7 8.2
Mar-1997 4.4 10.5 8.3
Apr-1997 4.3 10.2 8.2
May-1997 4.1 10.3 7.7
Jun-1997 4.2 10.8 7.5
Jul-1997 4.2 9.5 7.9
Aug-1997 4.2 9.4 7.2
Sep-1997 4.2 9.5 7.4
Oct-1997 4.1 9.5 7.8
Nov-1997 3.9 9.5 7.0
Dec-1997 3.9 10.0 7.3
Jan-1998 4.0 9.4 7.1
Feb-1998 3.9 9.3 6.9
Mar-1998 4.0 9.2 6.9
Apr-1998 3.7 9.1 6.7
May-1998 3.8 8.9 6.9
Jun-1998 3.9 8.8 7.4
Jul-1998 3.8 9.5 7.3
Aug-1998 3.9 8.8 7.4
Sep-1998 3.9 9.1 7.3
Oct-1998 3.9 8.6 7.2
Nov-1998 3.8 8.6 7.1
Dec-1998 3.8 7.7 7.7
Jan-1999 3.8 7.8 6.7
Feb-1999 3.8 8.2 6.7
Mar-1999 3.6 8.0 5.8
Apr-1999 3.8 7.8 7.0
May-1999 3.7 7.4 6.7
Jun-1999 3.8 7.7 6.6
Jul-1999 3.7 8.7 6.5
Aug-1999 3.7 7.7 6.5
Sep-1999 3.6 8.5 6.7
Oct-1999 3.5 8.4 6.4
Nov-1999 3.5 8.0 6.0
Dec-1999 3.5 7.8 5.8
Jan-2000 3.4 8.2 5.6
Feb-2000 3.6 8.1 5.7
Mar-2000 3.5 7.4 6.1
Apr-2000 3.4 7.0  5.5
May-2000 3.5 7.7 5.8
Jun-2000 3.4 7.8 5.6
Jul-2000 3.5 7.7 5.8
Aug-2000 3.6 7.9 5.9
Sep-2000 3.5 7.3 5.8
Oct-2000 3.4  7.3 5.1
Nov-2000 3.5 7.3 6.0
Dec-2000 3.5 7.4 5.7
Jan-2001 3.6 8.2 5.8
Feb-2001 3.7 7.7 6.1
Mar-2001 3.7 8.3 6.2
Apr-2001 3.9 8.0 6.4
May-2001 3.8 7.9 6.3
Jun-2001 4.0 8.3 6.6
Jul-2001 4.0 8.0 6.2
Aug-2001 4.3 9.1 6.5
Sep-2001 4.3 8.9 6.7
Oct-2001 4.7 9.5 7.1
Nov-2001 4.9 9.8 7.3
Dec-2001 5.1 10.1 7.7
Jan-2002 5.1 10.0 7.8
Feb-2002 5.0 9.9 7.0
Mar-2002 5.0 10.5 7.5
Apr-2002 5.2 10.7 8.0
May-2002 5.1 10.2 7.1
Jun-2002 5.1 10.5 7.4
Jul-2002 5.2 9.8 7.4
Aug-2002 5.1 9.8 7.5
Sep-2002 5.1 9.7 7.4
Oct-2002 5.1 9.8 7.9
Nov-2002 5.1 10.7 7.8
Dec-2002 5.1 11.3 7.9
Jan-2003 5.2 10.5 7.9
Feb-2003 5.1 10.7 7.7
Mar-2003 5.1 10.3 7.8
Apr-2003 5.3 10.9 7.6
May-2003 5.4 10.9 8.0
Jun-2003 5.5 11.5 8.3
Jul-2003 5.4 10.9 8.0
Aug-2003 5.4 10.9 7.7
Sep-2003 5.3 11.1 7.3
Oct-2003 5.1 11.4 7.5
Nov-2003 5.2 10.2 7.4
Dec-2003 5.0 10.1 6.7
Jan-2004 5.0 10.4 7.3
Feb-2004 4.9 9.7 7.4
Mar-2004 5.1 10.3 7.6
Apr-2004 5.0 9.8 7.1
May-2004 4.9 10.1 6.9
Jun-2004 5.0 10.2 6.6
Jul-2004 4.7 11.0 6.8
Aug-2004 4.7 10.5 6.8
Sep-2004 4.6 10.3 6.8
Oct-2004 4.6 10.8 6.8
Nov-2004 4.6 10.7 6.7
Dec-2004 4.5 10.7 6.6
Jan-2005 4.5 10.6 6.0
Feb-2005 4.6 10.9 6.3
Mar-2005 4.5 10.5 5.8
Apr-2005 4.4 10.3 6.4
May-2005 4.4 10.1 6.0
Jun-2005 4.3 10.2 5.7
Jul-2005 4.2 9.2 5.5
Aug-2005 4.2 9.7 5.8
Sep-2005 4.4 9.4 6.4
Oct-2005 4.4 9.1 6.0
Nov-2005 4.3 10.6 6.1
Dec-2005 4.2 9.2 6.1
Jan-2006 4.1 8.9 5.5
Feb-2006 4.1 9.5 5.4
Mar-2006 4.0 9.5 5.2
Apr-2006 4.1 9.4 5.5
May-2006 4.1 8.7 5.0
Jun-2006 4.1 8.9 5.2
Jul-2006 4.1 9.5 5.2
Aug-2006 4.1 8.8 5.3
Sep-2006 3.9 9.0 5.5
Oct-2006 3.9 8.4 4.8 
Nov-2006 4.0 8.5 5.1
Dec-2006 3.9 8.3 5.0
Jan-2007 4.2 7.9 5.5
Feb-2007 4.1 8.0 5.1
Mar-2007 3.8 8.4 5.0
Apr-2007 4.0 8.3 5.6
May-2007 3.9 8.3 5.8
Jun-2007 4.1 8.5 5.5
Jul-2007 4.2 8.1 5.9
Aug-2007 4.2 7.6 5.5
Sep-2007 4.2 8.0 5.9
Oct-2007 4.1 8.5 5.7
Nov-2007 4.2 8.5 5.9
Dec-2007 4.4 9.0 6.3
Jan-2008 4.4 9.1 6.3
Feb-2008 4.4 8.4 6.2
Mar-2008 4.5 9.2 6.9
Apr-2008 4.4 8.6 7.1
May-2008 4.8 9.6 6.9
Jun-2008 5.0 9.4 7.6
Jul-2008 5.2 10.0 7.5
Aug-2008 5.4 10.6 8.0
Sep-2008 5.4 11.3 8.0
Oct-2008 5.9 11.4 8.8
Nov-2008 6.2 11.5 8.7
Dec-2008 6.7 12.1 9.4
Jan-2009 7.1 12.7 10.1
Feb-2009 7.6 13.7 11.3
Mar-2009 8.0 13.7 11.7
Apr-2009 8.1 15.0 11.4
May-2009 8.5 15.0 12.3
Jun-2009 8.7 14.8 12.1
Jul-2009 8.7 14.8 12.5
Aug-2009 8.9 14.8 13.0
Sep-2009 8.9 15.3 12.6
Oct-2009 9.2 15.8 12.8
Nov-2009 9.2 15.7 12.4
Dec-2009 9.0 16.1 12.8
Jan-2010 8.8 16.5 12.9
Feb-2010 8.9 16.1 12.7
Mar-2010 8.9 16.8 12.9
Apr-2010 9.0 16.6 12.5
May-2010 8.7 15.5 12.0
Jun-2010 8.6 15.2 12.3
Jul-2010 8.5 15.6 12.2
Aug-2010 8.6 15.9 12.0
Sep-2010 8.6 16.0 12.3
Oct-2010 8.6 15.6 12.3
Nov-2010 8.9 16.2 12.9
Dec-2010 8.5 15.5 12.9
Jan-2011 8.1 15.8 12.3
Feb-2011 8.1 15.5 11.8
Mar-2011 8.0 15.8 11.6
Apr-2011 8.1 16.5 11.9
May-2011 7.9 16.3 11.6
Jun-2011 8.1 16.2 11.5
Jul-2011 8.0 15.9 11.2
Aug-2011 7.9 16.4 11.2
Sep-2011 7.9 15.9 11.2
Oct-2011 7.9 14.6 11.3
Nov-2011 7.7 15.6 11.2
Dec-2011 7.5 15.4 11.1
Jan-2012 7.4 13.6 10.7
Feb-2012 7.4 14.0 10.9
Mar-2012 7.3 14.0 10.6
Apr-2012 7.4 13.3 10.3
May-2012 7.4 13.5 10.9
Jun-2012 7.3 14.5 10.9
Jul-2012 7.3 14.2 10.2
Aug-2012 7.2 13.8 10.1
Sep-2012 7.0 13.6 9.7
Oct-2012 6.9 14.1 10.0
Nov-2012 6.8 13.3 9.9
Dec-2012 6.9 14.0 9.6
Jan-2013 7.1 13.7 9.7
Feb-2013 6.8 13.8 9.7
Mar-2013 6.7 13.0 9.3
Apr-2013 6.7 13.3 9.0
May-2013 6.7 13.4 9.0
Jun-2013 6.6 14.2 9.1
Jul-2013 6.5 12.6 9.4
Aug-2013 6.4 12.8 9.2
Sep-2013 6.3 13.0 8.8
Oct-2013 6.3 12.8 9.1
Nov-2013 6.1 12.3 8.7
Dec-2013 5.9 11.9 8.3
Jan-2014 5.7 12.1 8.3
Feb-2014 5.8 11.8 8.2
Mar-2014 5.8 12.1 7.9
Apr-2014 5.3 11.5 7.3
May-2014 5.4 11.4 7.7
Jun-2014 5.3 11.0 7.7
Jul-2014 5.3 11.6 7.7
Aug-2014 5.3 11.4 7.4
Sep-2014 5.1 11.0 6.8
Oct-2014 4.8 10.6 6.8
Nov-2014 5.0 10.9 6.6
Dec-2014 4.7 10.6 6.4
Jan-2015 4.9 10.4 6.7
Feb-2015 4.7 10.2 6.8
Mar-2015 4.8 10.0 6.8
Apr-2015 4.7 9.7 6.9
May-2015 4.8 10.3 6.8
Jun-2015 4.6 9.6 6.7
Jul-2015 4.5 9.1 6.9
Aug-2015 4.4 9.3 6.6
Sep-2015 4.4 9.2 6.2
Oct-2015 4.4 9.0 6.3
Nov-2015 4.4 9.3 6.4
Dec-2015 4.4 8.5 6.2
Jan-2016 4.3 8.9 5.9
Feb-2016 4.3 8.7 5.4
Mar-2016 4.3 9.0 5.6
Apr-2016 4.4 8.9 6.2
May-2016 4.2 8.2 5.6
Jun-2016 4.3 8.7 5.9
Jul-2016 4.2 8.4 5.4
Aug-2016 4.3 8.0 5.6
Sep-2016 4.4 8.3 6.4
Oct-2016 4.3 8.3 5.7
Nov-2016 4.2 7.9 5.7
Dec-2016 4.2 7.9 5.9
Jan-2017 4.3 4.2 7.8 7.9 5.9 5.8
Feb-2017 4.1 4.2 8.1 7.8 5.6 5.8
Mar-2017 3.9 4.2 8.0 7.7 5.1 5.8
Apr-2017 3.9 4.2 7.9 7.6 5.2 5.8
May-2017 3.7 4.2 7.6 7.5 5.2 5.7
Jun-2017 3.8 4.2 7.1 7.4 4.8 5.7
Jul-2017 3.7 4.2 7.4 7.4 5.1 5.7
Aug-2017 3.8 4.2 7.6 7.3 5.1 5.6
Sep-2017 3.7 4.1 7.0 7.2 5.1 5.6
Oct-2017 3.5 4.1 7.3 7.1 4.8 5.6
Nov-2017 3.7 4.1 7.2 7.0 4.8 5.6
Dec-2017 3.7 4.1 6.8 6.9 4.9 5.5
Jan-2018 3.5% 4.1 7.7% 6.8 5.0% 5.5
Feb-2018 4.1 6.7 5.5
Mar-2018 4.1 6.7 5.4
Apr-2018 4.1 6.6 5.4
May-2018 4.1 6.5 5.4
Jun-2018 4.0 6.4 5.4
Jul-2018 4.0 6.3 5.3
Aug-2018 4.0 6.2 5.3
Sep-2018 4.0 6.1 5.3
Oct-2018 4.0 6.1 5.3
Nov-2018 4.0 6.0 5.2
Dec-2018 4.0 5.9 5.2
Jan-2019 4.0 5.8 5.2
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey public data

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

This speculation about other margins of adjustment (besides falling unemployment) soaking up some of the labor market improvements of pre-2017 years is given a bit of support when looking at the prime-age employment to population ratio (EPOP)—the share of the 25-54 year old population with a job. The prime-age EPOP is increasing on track with preexisting trends. Contrary to what some analysts claimed at the time, as the economy strengthened more and more would-be workers have entered or reentered the labor force in search of job opportunities. The Great Recession was deep and workers and their families were deeply hurt across the economy, but increasing opportunities have continued to pull workers back in, and it is increasingly clear that they have not been permanently “scarred” by the recession.

Share of prime-age population (25–54) with a job, 1995–2019 (projected)

Date Actual Autopilot projection Target 
Jan-1995 79.7% 81.6
Feb-1995 80 81.6
Mar-1995 79.9 81.6
Apr-1995 79.8 81.6
May-1995 79.7 81.6
Jun-1995 79.5 81.6
Jul-1995 79.7 81.6
Aug-1995 79.6 81.6
Sep-1995 79.8 81.6
Oct-1995 79.8 81.6
Nov-1995 79.7 81.6
Dec-1995 79.7 81.6
Jan-1996 79.8 81.6
Feb-1996 79.9 81.6
Mar-1996 79.9 81.6
Apr-1996 79.9 81.6
May-1996 80 81.6
Jun-1996 80.1 81.6
Jul-1996 80.4 81.6
Aug-1996 80.5 81.6
Sep-1996 80.4 81.6
Oct-1996 80.6 81.6
Nov-1996 80.5 81.6
Dec-1996 80.5 81.6
Jan-1997 80.5 81.6
Feb-1997 80.4 81.6
Mar-1997 80.6 81.6
Apr-1997 80.7 81.6
May-1997 80.6 81.6
Jun-1997 80.9 81.6
Jul-1997 81.1 81.6
Aug-1997 81.3 81.6
Sep-1997 81.1 81.6
Oct-1997 81.1 81.6
Nov-1997 81 81.6
Dec-1997 81 81.6
Jan-1998 81 81.6
Feb-1998 81 81.6
Mar-1998 81 81.6
Apr-1998 81.1 81.6
May-1998 81 81.6
Jun-1998 81 81.6
Jul-1998 81.1 81.6
Aug-1998 81.2 81.6
Sep-1998 81.3 81.6
Oct-1998 81.1 81.6
Nov-1998 81.2 81.6
Dec-1998 81.3 81.6
Jan-1999 81.8 81.6
Feb-1999 81.5 81.6
Mar-1999 81.3 81.6
Apr-1999 81.3 81.6
May-1999 81.4 81.6
Jun-1999 81.4 81.6
Jul-1999 81.2 81.6
Aug-1999 81.3 81.6
Sep-1999 81.3 81.6
Oct-1999 81.5 81.6
Nov-1999 81.6 81.6
Dec-1999 81.5 81.6
Jan-2000 81.8 81.6
Feb-2000 81.8 81.6
Mar-2000 81.7 81.6
Apr-2000 81.9 81.6
May-2000 81.5 81.6
Jun-2000 81.5 81.6
Jul-2000 81.3 81.6
Aug-2000 81.1 81.6
Sep-2000 81.1 81.6
Oct-2000 81.1 81.6
Nov-2000 81.3 81.6
Dec-2000 81.4 81.6
Jan-2001 81.4 81.6
Feb-2001 81.3 81.6
Mar-2001 81.3 81.6
Apr-2001 80.9 81.6
May-2001 80.8 81.6
Jun-2001 80.6 81.6
Jul-2001 80.5 81.6
Aug-2001 80.2 81.6
Sep-2001 80.2 81.6
Oct-2001 79.9 81.6
Nov-2001 79.7 81.6
Dec-2001 79.8 81.6
Jan-2002 79.6 81.6
Feb-2002 79.8 81.6
Mar-2002 79.6 81.6
Apr-2002 79.5 81.6
May-2002 79.4 81.6
Jun-2002 79.2 81.6
Jul-2002 79.1 81.6
Aug-2002 79.3 81.6
Sep-2002 79.4 81.6
Oct-2002 79.2 81.6
Nov-2002 78.8 81.6
Dec-2002 79 81.6
Jan-2003 78.9 81.6
Feb-2003 78.9 81.6
Mar-2003 79 81.6
Apr-2003 79.1 81.6
May-2003 78.9 81.6
Jun-2003 78.9 81.6
Jul-2003 78.8 81.6
Aug-2003 78.7 81.6
Sep-2003 78.6 81.6
Oct-2003 78.6 81.6
Nov-2003 78.7 81.6
Dec-2003 78.8 81.6
Jan-2004 78.9 81.6
Feb-2004 78.8 81.6
Mar-2004 78.7 81.6
Apr-2004 78.9 81.6
May-2004 79 81.6
Jun-2004 79.1 81.6
Jul-2004 79.2 81.6
Aug-2004 79 81.6
Sep-2004 79 81.6
Oct-2004 79 81.6
Nov-2004 79.1 81.6
Dec-2004 78.9 81.6
Jan-2005 79.2 81.6
Feb-2005 79.2 81.6
Mar-2005 79.2 81.6
Apr-2005 79.4 81.6
May-2005 79.5 81.6
Jun-2005 79.2 81.6
Jul-2005 79.4 81.6
Aug-2005 79.6 81.6
Sep-2005 79.4 81.6
Oct-2005 79.3 81.6
Nov-2005 79.2 81.6
Dec-2005 79.3 81.6
Jan-2006 79.6 81.6
Feb-2006 79.7 81.6
Mar-2006 79.8 81.6
Apr-2006 79.6 81.6
May-2006 79.7 81.6
Jun-2006 79.8 81.6
Jul-2006 79.8 81.6
Aug-2006 79.8 81.6
Sep-2006 79.9 81.6
Oct-2006 80.1 81.6
Nov-2006 80 81.6
Dec-2006 80.1 81.6
Jan-2007 80.3 81.6
Feb-2007 80.1 81.6
Mar-2007 80.2 81.6
Apr-2007 80 81.6
May-2007 80 81.6
Jun-2007 79.9 81.6
Jul-2007 79.8 81.6
Aug-2007 79.8 81.6
Sep-2007 79.7 81.6
Oct-2007 79.6 81.6
Nov-2007 79.7 81.6
Dec-2007 79.7 81.6
Jan-2008 80 81.6
Feb-2008 79.9 81.6
Mar-2008 79.8 81.6
Apr-2008 79.6 81.6
May-2008 79.5 81.6
Jun-2008 79.4 81.6
Jul-2008 79.2 81.6
Aug-2008 78.8 81.6
Sep-2008 78.8 81.6
Oct-2008 78.4 81.6
Nov-2008 78.1 81.6
Dec-2008 77.6 81.6
Jan-2009 77 81.6
Feb-2009 76.7 81.6
Mar-2009 76.2 81.6
Apr-2009 76.2 81.6
May-2009 75.9 81.6
Jun-2009 75.9 81.6
Jul-2009 75.8 81.6
Aug-2009 75.6 81.6
Sep-2009 75.1 81.6
Oct-2009 75 81.6
Nov-2009 75.2 81.6
Dec-2009 74.8 81.6
Jan-2010 75.1 81.6
Feb-2010 75.1 81.6
Mar-2010 75.1 81.6
Apr-2010 75.4 81.6
May-2010 75.1 81.6
Jun-2010 75.2 81.6
Jul-2010 75.1 81.6
Aug-2010 75 81.6
Sep-2010 75.1 81.6
Oct-2010 75 81.6
Nov-2010 74.8 81.6
Dec-2010 75 81.6
Jan-2011 75.2 81.6
Feb-2011 75.1 81.6
Mar-2011 75.3 81.6
Apr-2011 75.1 81.6
May-2011 75.2 81.6
Jun-2011 75 81.6
Jul-2011 75 81.6
Aug-2011 75.1 81.6
Sep-2011 74.9 81.6
Oct-2011 74.9 81.6
Nov-2011 75.3 81.6
Dec-2011 75.4 81.6
Jan-2012 75.5 81.6
Feb-2012 75.5 81.6
Mar-2012 75.7 81.6
Apr-2012 75.7 81.6 
May-2012 75.7 81.6
Jun-2012 75.6 81.6
Jul-2012 75.6 81.6
Aug-2012 75.7 81.6
Sep-2012 76 81.6
Oct-2012 76.1 81.6
Nov-2012 75.8 81.6
Dec-2012 76 81.6
Jan-2013 75.6 81.6
Feb-2013 75.8 81.6
Mar-2013 75.8 81.6
Apr-2013 75.8 81.6
May-2013 76 81.6
Jun-2013 75.9 81.6
Jul-2013 76 81.6
Aug-2013 76 81.6
Sep-2013 76 81.6
Oct-2013 75.6 81.6
Nov-2013 76.1 81.6
Dec-2013 76.1 81.6
Jan-2014 76.4 81.6
Feb-2014 76.4 81.6
Mar-2014 76.6 81.6
Apr-2014 76.5 81.6
May-2014 76.4 81.6
Jun-2014 76.9 81.6
Jul-2014 76.7 81.6
Aug-2014 76.8 81.6
Sep-2014 76.8 81.6
Oct-2014 76.9 81.6
Nov-2014 76.9 81.6
Dec-2014 77.1 81.6
Jan-2015 77.1 81.6
Feb-2015 77.2 81.6
Mar-2015 77.2 81.6
Apr-2015 77.2 81.6
May-2015 77.2 81.6
Jun-2015 77.4 81.6
Jul-2015 77.1 81.6
Aug-2015 77.2 81.6
Sep-2015 77.2 81.6
Oct-2015 77.2 81.6
Nov-2015 77.4 81.6
Dec-2015 77.4 81.6
Jan-2016 77.7 81.6
Feb-2016 77.8 81.6
Mar-2016 78 81.6
Apr-2016 77.8 81.6
May-2016 77.8 81.6
Jun-2016 77.9 81.6
Jul-2016 77.9 81.6
Aug-2016 77.8 81.6
Sep-2016 78 81.6
Oct-2016 78.2 81.6
Nov-2016 78.1 81.6
Dec-2016 78.1 81.6
Jan-2017 78.2 78.1 81.6
Feb-2017 78.4 78.1861 81.6
Mar-2017 78.5 78.2389 81.6
Apr-2017 78.6 78.2917 81.6
May-2017 78.4 78.3444 81.6
Jun-2017 78.6 78.3972 81.6
Jul-2017 78.6 78.4500 81.6
Aug-2017 78.4 78.5028 81.6
Sep-2017 78.9 78.5556 81.6
Oct-2017 78.9 78.6083 81.6
Nov-2017 79.0 78.6611 81.6
Dec-2017 79.1 78.7139 81.6
Jan-2018 79.0  78.7667 81.6
Feb-2018 78.8194 81.6
Mar-2018 78.8722 81.6
Apr-2018 78.9250 81.6
May-2018 78.9778 81.6
Jun-2018 79.0306 81.6
Jul-2018 79.0833 81.6
Aug-2018 79.1361 81.6
Sep-2018 79.1889 81.6
Oct-2018 79.2417 81.6
Nov-2018 79.2944 81.6
Dec-2018 79.3472 81.6
Jan-2019 79.4000 81.6
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey public data

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

Nominal wage growth remains the troubling sore spot in the economy today. As the labor market tightens, we generally expect to see significantly stronger wage growth, but wage growth has been flat over the past year, actually doing significantly worse than pre-2017 trends predicted. At this point, the EPI autopilot tracker predicted we’d be seeing 3.0 percent wage growth, but over the past year wages have risen just 2.5 percent. It is clear from this wage data that while today’s labor market is healthier than it has been in years, it has not yet achieved full health. Until it does, policymakers need to let the recovery continue without restraint.

Year-over-year change in private-sector nominal average hourly earnings 2007–2019 (projected)

Date Actual Autopilot projection
Mar-2007 3.44%
Apr-2007 3.13%
May-2007 3.53%
Jun-2007 3.61%
Jul-2007 3.25%
Aug-2007 3.35%
Sep-2007 3.09%
Oct-2007 3.03%
Nov-2007 3.07%
Dec-2007 2.92%
Jan-2008 2.91%
Feb-2008 2.85%
Mar-2008 3.04%
Apr-2008 2.89%
May-2008 3.07%
Jun-2008 2.67%
Jul-2008 3.05%
Aug-2008 3.33%
Sep-2008 3.28%
Oct-2008 3.32%
Nov-2008 3.50%
Dec-2008 3.59%
Jan-2009 3.58%
Feb-2009 3.43%
Mar-2009 3.28%
Apr-2009 3.37%
May-2009 2.93%
Jun-2009 2.88%
Jul-2009 2.69%
Aug-2009 2.44%
Sep-2009 2.44%
Oct-2009 2.53%
Nov-2009 2.15%
Dec-2009 1.96%
Jan-2010 2.09%
Feb-2010 2.09%
Mar-2010 1.81%
Apr-2010 1.81%
May-2010 1.90%
Jun-2010 1.76%
Jul-2010 1.85%
Aug-2010 1.75%
Sep-2010 1.84%
Oct-2010 1.93%
Nov-2010 1.79%
Dec-2010 1.74%
Jan-2011 1.92%
Feb-2011 1.83%
Mar-2011 1.83%
Apr-2011 1.87%
May-2011 2.04%
Jun-2011 2.13%
Jul-2011 2.30%
Aug-2011 1.95%
Sep-2011 1.94%
Oct-2011 2.07%
Nov-2011 1.98%
Dec-2011 2.07%
Jan-2012 1.79%
Feb-2012 1.79%
Mar-2012 2.14%
Apr-2012 2.09%
May-2012 1.74%
Jun-2012 1.96%
Jul-2012 1.69%
Aug-2012 1.86%
Sep-2012 1.99%
Oct-2012 1.51%
Nov-2012 1.94%
Dec-2012 2.11%
Jan-2013 2.06%
Feb-2013 2.19%
Mar-2013 1.88%
Apr-2013 1.97%
May-2013 2.14%
Jun-2013 2.17%
Jul-2013 2.04%
Aug-2013 2.26%
Sep-2013 2.08%
Oct-2013 2.25%
Nov-2013 2.20%
Dec-2013 1.98%
Jan-2014 2.02%
Feb-2014 2.23%
Mar-2014 2.14%
Apr-2014 2.01%
May-2014 2.13%
Jun-2014 2.00%
Jul-2014 2.09%
Aug-2014 2.21%
Sep-2014 2.04%
Oct-2014 2.03%
Nov-2014 2.03%
Dec-2014 1.86%
Jan-2015 2.19%
Feb-2015 1.93%
Mar-2015 2.22%
Apr-2015 2.26%
May-2015 2.30%
Jun-2015 2.09%
Jul-2015 2.21%
Aug-2015 2.24%
Sep-2015 2.32%
Oct-2015 2.56%
Nov-2015 2.39%
Dec-2015 2.52%
Jan-2016 2.51%
Feb-2016 2.38%
Mar-2016 2.45%
Apr-2016 2.61%
May-2016 2.52%
Jun-2016 2.64%
Jul-2016 2.76%
Aug-2016 2.55%
Sep-2016 2.75%
Oct-2016 2.74%
Nov-2016 2.65%
Dec-2016 2.85%
Jan-2017 2.56% 2.7%
Feb-2017 2.84% 2.73%
Mar-2017 2.63% 2.76%
Apr-2017 2.51% 2.78%
May-2017 2.46% 2.81%
Jun-2017 2.54% 2.84%
Jul-2017 2.64% 2.87%
Aug-2017 2.64% 2.89%
Sep-2017 2.79% 2.92%
Oct-2017 2.36% 2.95%
Nov-2017 2.43% 2.98%
Dec-2017 2.50% 3.00%
Jan-2018 3.03%
Feb-2018 3.06%
Mar-2018 3.09%
Apr-2018 3.12%
May-2018 3.14%
Jun-2018 3.17%
Jul-2018 3.20%
Aug-2018 3.23%
Sep-2018 3.25%
Oct-2018 3.28%
Nov-2018 3.31%
Dec-2018 3.34%
Jan-2019 3.36%
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

The target is nominal wage growth consistent with the Federal Reserve Board's 2 percent inflation target, 1.5 percent productivity growth, and a stable labor share of income. Wages are for nonfarm employees.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Employment Statistics public data series

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

Lastly, I turn to payroll employment growth, illustrated in the figure below. December’s number was considerably weaker at 148,000, but even the year average fell flat. Over the last year, payroll employment growth averaged 171,000—mildly slower than 2016 and considerably slower than 2014 and 2015. According to President Trump’s own prediction of 25 million jobs in the next 10 years, the economy would need to add an average of 208,000 jobs per month.

All in all, yes, the economy is healthier now than it’s been any time before the Great Recession. But it’s not completely healthy, and, more importantly, there has been no boost at all to the pace of recovery over the past year. Put really simply, the Trump administration deserves no credit at all for today’s relatively strong economy and labor market—they simply inherited an economy that had been getting stronger each year since 2010, and have so far managed not to knock it off this path.

Average monthly total nonfarm employment growth, 2006–2017

Year Average monthly total nonfarm employment growth
2006 174
2007 96
2008 -297
2009 -422
2010 88
2011 174
2012 179
2013 192
2014 250
2015 226
2016 187
2017 171
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Source: Data are from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) series of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to occasional revisions.

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.