The first full jobs report of the Trump administration came in like a lion: America added 235,000 new jobs to the economy in February, beating analyst expectations that had pegged the monthly figure at 190,000, and paving the way for a Fed rate hike.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed that the unemployment rate ticked down from 4.8 percent to 4.7 percent, indicating that slightly fewer Americans are out looking for work.
Wage growth, a key indicator that disappointed in January but had a strong showing in December, at 2.9 percent — the biggest uptick in seven years — also improved for February, hitting 2.8 percent year on year. Higher wages indicate a tighter labor market, with employers forced to offer better pay to attract workers.
The strong jobs data represents the last piece of the puzzle for the Federal Reserve and essentially seals the deal for an interest rate hike next week at its two-day monetary policy meeting on March 14-15.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last week that the current labor market already meets the Fed's goal and that policymakers judge it will be “appropriate to gradually increase the federal funds rate if the economic data continue to come in about as we expect.”
Trump’s economic report card is the first grading of his bold agenda for job creation. The President has promised to create 25 million new jobs over the next decade, based on campaign promises of tax cuts, deregulation, and an increase in spending on infrastructure.
However, Trump has repeatedly referred to the unemployment rate as a hoax, even suggesting the actual figure is as high as 42 percent. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing in February that he believes the unemployment rate “is not real."
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed the president's changing sentiment on jobs numbers during a press conference Friday afternoon, telling reporters, "I spoke to the president today and he said to quote him on this: 'They may have been phony in the past, but they're very real now.'"
Spicer also tweeted out his approval of the jobs report:
Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez had a more sanguine approach, telling MSNBC on Friday, "Trump has had about as much to do with job growth since January 20 as he does with the Washington Wizards' winning record: absolutely nothing. Trump inherited an economy from Barack Obama with the longest streak of private sector job growth in history."