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On the heels of a strong jobs report — one that featured 223,000 new jobs in May and an unemployment rate falling to 3.8 percent — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor to tout the success of Republican economic policies.
"The bottom line is clear," McConnell said June 4. "Under the policies of this unified Republican government, American workers, families, and business owners are achieving economic growth that is unmatched in recent memory."
McConnell went on to cite changes to the tax code and regulatory changes.
"After a decade of stagnation," he said, "Republican policies have gotten Washington out of the way and freed American workers and job creators to do what they do best — build a dynamic economy that is literally the envy of the world. But as impressive as some of these statistics may be, I think it is important to keep in mind that these stories are, at the end of the day, human stories. More than 1 million new jobs have been created just since we passed tax reform last December."
When McConnell’s office posted the speech to YouTube, it hit the jobs line hard, giving it the title, "More Than One Million Jobs Created Since the Passage of Republican Tax Reform."
There's little question that the economy, and particularly the jobs picture, are strong. The 3.8 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since 2000.
Asked about McConnell's floor speech, his office offered another quote from the Majority Leader: "I spoke yesterday about the new job opportunities flooding into the U.S. economy. It’s all thanks to the ingenuity of American workers and job-creators, with an assist from Republican policies. … Republicans are proud of the historic tax reform and dramatic regulatory reform that helped make this happen."
But is there evidence that Republican policies have boosted job creation?
While it’s always tricky to isolate whether specific policies have shaped economic trends, policies implemented by the Republicans in charge of the White House and Congress probably had some effect.
That said, the number of new jobs gained since passage of the Republican-backed tax bill in December 2017 is pretty similar in scale to those racked up by both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump going back to 2010.
McConnell is correct on the number. From January to May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a net increase of 1.037 million jobs. That works out to about 207,000 more net jobs a month.
But rather than being a turnaround from weak to strong, that amount of job creation is roughly in line with the gains in each of the past nine years.
Here’s a chart showing the month-to-month job gains since the start of 2008.
And here’s a chart showing the job gains for every January-to-May period in recent years. Since 2010 — the year the Great Recession began to wane and the recovery began — every January-to-May period saw an average monthly job gain of between 160,000 and 236,000. The performance for 2018 was slightly higher than the average, but pretty typical.
Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution, came to a similar conclusion.
He looked at all 96 overlapping five-month periods from May 2010 to April 2018 to see how many of those five-month periods saw job creation grow at a faster rate than the first five months of this year. He found that employment increased faster than the most recent five-month period 47 percent of the time, and slower 53 percent of the time. In other words, the past five months were pretty ordinary.
"So, job growth since December 2017 does not look exceptional compared with job growth throughout the current economic expansion," Burtless said.
Burtless said he didn’t doubt that the changes to the tax code could have had an effect on job creation. But he said it’s hard to measure how much.
"In the absence of the tax cut, job growth might have been weaker than what we actually saw," he said. "My guess is that the tax cut probably boosted employment growth at least a bit. It’s just too soon to be sure, and we’ll probably never know with very much confidence."
Still, he added, "it is not very convincing to claim recent job growth has been particularly remarkable."
McConnell said, "The bottom line is clear: Under the policies of this unified Republican government, American workers, families, and business owners are achieving economic growth that is unmatched in recent memory. … More than 1 million new jobs have been created just since we passed tax reform last December."
Officially, it’s 1,037,000 new jobs — and it’s likely that the tax cut had some positive impact.
However, it’s questionable to suggest that job growth in the past five months has been especially strong, or that recent rates of job-creation represent some kind of turnaround from a poor performance earlier. Job growth in the past five months is in line with the gains seen in previous five-month periods and in previous January-to-May periods going back nine years.
We rate the statement Half True.
Correction: The original version of this fact-check misstated the last year the national unemployment rate was 3.8 percent. It was 2000.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment level one-month net change, accessed June 5, 2018
Email interview with Gary Burtless, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, June 5, 2018
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