Not since the days of the Apollo 12 launch and the very first episode of “Sesame Street” have so few Americans asked for unemployment benefits, according to the Department of Labor.
Some 209,000 Americans applied for unemployment insurance benefits in the week ending April 21, based on the department’s data adjusted for seasonal changes. It marked the slowest week for initial insurance claims since Dec. 6, 1969 when it was 202,000, the department noted in a release.
The statistics are all the more impressive since there are now around 60 percent more people in the United States than in the Nixon era.
While optimistic, though, the stat comes with some caveats.
The number of initial claims—the moments when people just start to collect the benefits—can significantly swing up and down month to month. Still, a downward trend has continued since peak jobless claims of 661,000 in mid-March 2009, after the economic crisis hit.
On top of that, the economy has been beating expectations for over a year thanks to the “Trump effect”—a boost to confidence in the economy linked to President Donald Trump’s cutting of regulations, taxes, and his planned investment in infrastructure.
Jobless claims, however, don’t tell the whole story of joblessness, as most unemployed don’t make claims. Even the unemployment rate, holding at 4.1 percent since October, doesn’t paint the whole picture as it excludes anybody who’s stopped looking for work.
There are almost 95 million people over the age of 16 in the country who don’t work and are currently not looking for work, mostly because they study, are ill, retired, or homemakers. But, among them, there’s over 5.5 million who’d like a job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Yet, even this number has declined in recent years, and significantly so in 2017—a hint that more people who had given up on finding a job are now trying again and succeeding.
Bringing people back to the workforce was one of Trump’s campaign promises ever since he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.
“We have people that aren’t working. We have people that have no incentive to work. But they’re going to have incentive to work, because the greatest social program is a job,” he said in his announcement speech in Trump Tower. “And they’ll be proud, and they’ll love it, and they’ll make much more than they would’ve ever made, and they’ll be—they’ll be doing so well, and we’re going to be thriving as a country, thriving. It can happen.”
He hasn’t stopped emphasizing the point since.
“Here’s a great stat – since January 2017, the number of people forced to use food stamps is down 1.9 million. The American people are finally back to work!” he wrote on Twitter April 23.
Here’s a great stat – since January 2017, the number of people forced to use food stamps is down 1.9 million. The American people are finally back to work!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018