A top Republican leader has suddenly changed his tune about the jobs report

Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican lawmaker who leads the House Ways and Means Committee, typically puts out a statement every month in reaction to the release of the jobs report.

For the past few years, those statements have suggested a trend of weak jobs growth, the result of poor tax and economic policy under the Obama administration.

On Friday, however, that seemed to change.

“This is a great report,” Brady said in his statement on the report, the first released under President Donald Trump’s tenure.

It continued: “The fact that hundreds of thousands more people found new jobs last month is a good sign that our economy is moving in the right direction. While we still have much more work to do, I’m optimistic that the actions that President Trump and House Republicans are taking will add to this momentum — creating more jobs, growing families’ paychecks, and improving the lives of all Americans.”

The February jobs report from the Bureau of Labour Statistics showed that the US economy added 235,000 jobs last month, higher than the 200,000 expected by economists but roughly in line with the trend from the last few years.

What was striking to some observers was the difference between Brady’s statement Friday and his comment from just a year ago, when the economy added 242,000 jobs in the month of February of 2016. The discrepancy was first pointed out by the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein.

“While it’s good news that more Americans have joined the labour force, it’s disappointing to see so little growth in full time work and wages,” said the statement.

In that statement, Brady made the distinction that part-time job growth was particularly strong that month, as Ways and Means committee communications director Emily Schillinger noted in response to Stein. The overall tone, however, was negative despite similar headline results to Friday’s report.

In August 2016, after the July jobs report crushed expectations and showed the highest wage growth since the recession up to that point, Brady’s message also remained downbeat.

“After another quarter of weak economic growth, today’s positive jobs report doesn’t mask the fact that, month after month, quarter after quarter, year after year, hard-working Americans have been waiting for the economy to improve under the Obama administration,” said his statement. “Over seven years later, Americans are still waiting for the economy they deserve.”

Looking past month-to-month differences, most economists agree that the labour market has been improving for some time and that the trends over the past few years held up in Friday’s report. Even Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said the jobs report was in line with the last few years of growth.

The trends still show room for improvement: Wages are still low, and the labour-force participation rate is below its long-term average.

Brady’s office pointed to Schillinger’s tweet in response to the perceived change in tone and noted that Brady’s statement on Friday referenced the fact that the government “still has more work to do.”

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