Donald Trump became US president by promising to create American jobs, and his political future could depend on whether his base thinks he succeeded in doing so. However, an analysis of the new jobs he has tweeted about since his election show that most were already in the works long before he became president, and many companies merely repackaged earlier announcements.
Mr Trump has used his bully pulpit to berate US and overseas corporations that build factories in Mexico, often threatening them with punitive tariffs unless they hire more American workers. He has used Twitter as a potent tool in that battle. But there has often been a gap between the rhetoric of his tweets and the reality of job creation since his election victory.
In July, the US economy added 209,000 jobs, with unemployment sliding to 4.3 per cent from 4.4 per cent in June, to match a 16-year low struck in May. Mr Trump took credit on Twitter, saying “Excellent Jobs Numbers just released — and I have only just begun. Many job stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA!”
Economists say the average job creation numbers since he was inaugurated are about the same as those for last year, before he took office.
His supporters appear to believe he is responsible for rising job numbers, however. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that 73 per cent of Republicans rate Mr Trump’s handling of job creation as good or excellent.
Political experts say that perception was as important as reality in Mr Trump’s victory last November, and the same could be true if he decides to run again in 2020: he may successfully claim credit for creating jobs, even if he — like most presidents — has little true impact on the number.
Many autoworkers — whose defection from the Democratic party to vote for Trump was a major factor in giving him a win in crucial swing states last November — continue to support him. But jobs in auto manufacturing were 7 per cent lower last month than a year ago, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“President Trump has taken credit for creating jobs in the auto industry. However, many of the job announcements made by automakers and their suppliers have been in the works for some time. And it is unlikely we will see a gain in auto jobs right now” with US vehicle sales this year expected to fall for the first time since the global financial crisis, says Michelle Krebs of Autotrader.com.
Trump on jobs The tweets vs the facts
Donald Trump praised Merck in July when the drugmaker said it would invest $4bn to create as many as 4,000 jobs, along with Pfizer and Corning. But less than a month later, Mr Trump returned to the Twittersphere to attack Merck for shipping jobs overseas.
The only thing that changed in the meantime was that chief executive Kenneth Frazier quit the president’s manufacturing council in protest at Mr Trump’s failure to distance himself from white supremacist violence. Mr Frazier’s departure triggered an exodus of CEOs that forced Mr Trump to disband two advisory councils and led to a breach between the White House and business.
Shortly before he took office, Mr Trump threatened Toyota with tariffs over its plans to build a new factory in Mexico. Eight months later, Toyota said it would build a $1.6bn new US plant with Mazda, creating 4,000 new jobs.
Toyota said the decision was “not related” to the tweeted presidential threat and the new plant had been under consideration for some time. Corolla production, previously planned for Mexico, will be shifted to the new US joint venture plant.
Wisconsin has had to offer Foxconn up to $3bn in state aid to build the plant, which would initially involve only 3,000 jobs. And the Taiwanese electronics supplier has a history of failing to follow through with similar investment promises, including a $30m plant announced in 2013 for Pennsylvania.
Foxconn says that plant fell through because state incentives were inadequate. Mr Trump helped steer the $10bn pledge in Wisconsin, to an area that could be pivotal to his re-election campaign in 2020. So he has a lot riding on this one.
Mr Trump relentlessly attacked Ford from the stump for producing cars in Mexico instead of the US. So he was triumphant when the Detroit carmaker cancelled construction of a $1.6bn Mexican plant in January, saying it would create 700 new jobs in the US.
In March the company said it would invest $1.2bn in three Michigan plants, creating a further 130 new jobs. But Ford said it scrapped the Mexico plant due to a slump in demand for the small cars built there, and the jobs announced in March were part of a 2015 deal with the UAW. Ford later announced it was cutting 1,400 salaried jobs in North America and Asia and said it would move production of the Ford Focus, from Mexico to China — not the US.
Overall, jobs in the US automotive manufacturing sector were 7 per cent lower six months after Mr Trump took office, than six months before, according to seasonally adjusted figures from BLS statistics.
The 20,000 jobs are not new: Charter’s chief executive Tom Rutledge said in 2015 that the company would hire 20,000 more workers if its merger with Time Warner Cable and acquisition of Bright House Networks went through.
Charter now says that though it had mentioned adding these jobs before, it has now made a firm commitment to do so within four years. Charter’s commitment to invest $25bn in broadband infrastructure and technology was new.
The jobs are part of an Exxon project called Growing the Gulf, launched in 2013. It was not clear how many of those 45,000 jobs had already been planned or created before Mr Trump became president.
The new computer chip factory that Trump celebrated in his February tweet will create about 3,000 jobs at its peak and will support more than 10,000 related jobs. But Intel had previously announced a $5bn investment in the same factory with former President Barack Obama in 2011.
The chipmaker says the $7bn investment will come on top of money already spent building the plant — but it will not say how much of the original $5bn commitment was already spent. Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich was one of the first CEOs to jump ship from Mr Trump’s manufacturing council.
Just before Mr Trump’s inauguration, Walmart said it would add 10,000 jobs in the US this year, but these were already in the works before the election. General Motors said in January that it would invest at least $1bn in US factories, and create or retain about 7,000 jobs.
The company said the plans “had been in the works for some time” though, and denied any link with Mr Trump. Before Trump’s business advisory council was disbanded, GM chief executive Mary Barra said she would remain on the council as other CEOs were announcing their resignation.
Shortly before the inauguration, Amazon loudly announced plans to create more than 100,000 US jobs within 18 months — an unusual move for a secretive company. Mr Trump claimed credit for playing a role in that decision, through his press secretary.
However closer inspection shows that Amazon’s planned hiring in the US, which will mostly be warehouse jobs, is in line with its global headcount growth — and not a departure from the trend. Last year Amazon’s headcount grew more than 40 per cent. These were jobs that, most likely, would have been added anyway. But despite that, Mr Trump is now attacking Amazon for hurting employment in traditional retailers.
The investment was part of a previously announced plan. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, said the decision had nothing to do with Mr Trump. “I wish I could give him credit for this,” Mr Marchionne said: “But the thinking was in place beforehand.” FCA said the investment would lead to creation of 3.700 new jobs by 2020 — but that has nothing to do with Mr Trump.
SoftBank’s promise of $50bn of investment and 50,000 jobs stemmed from a decision made before the election. SoftBank had already announced a $100bn global technology investment fund, and directing half of that to the US was not a surprise.
Most of the money will go into buying existing businesses, raising a question about how many of the jobs will be new ones — though SoftBank has already announced one investment in Florida with a promise to create 3,000 positions.
The first time President-elect Trump claimed to have saved or boosted American jobs was when, shortly after his election victory, he claimed to have saved 1,100 jobs at Carrier in Indiana that were due to move to Mexico. In fact, only 800 of those jobs were scheduled to move, Carrier said.
Additional reporting by Richard Waters and Leslie Hook in San Francisco and Ed Crooks, Shannon Bond, Anna Nicolaou, and David Crow in New York