White House press secretary Sean Spicer passed along an answer from President Donald Trump on Friday about whether he still believed jobs reports were “phony” or “totally fiction.”
Trump was greeted with a jobs report Friday — the first full report released under his tenure — that showed the US economy gained 235,000 jobs for the month of February, beating expectations. Unemployment dipped from 4.8% to 4.7%, and the labour-force participation rate ticked up to 63%.
Spicer was asked specifically about Trump’s feelings on the stats during the Friday press briefing by a reporter who was curious about whether Trump was still of the mindset that such reports were not to be trusted.
“Does the president believe that this jobs report was accurate?” he asked.
“I talked to the president about this,” Spicer responded, smiling. “And he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.'”
Earlier Friday, Trump had retweeted a tweet from the Drudge Report that read: “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000.”
Trump, during the campaign and in its aftermath, slammed the monthly numbers put out by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, particularly the unemployment rate. During an Iowa rally in early December, he said the calculation is “totally fiction.”
“If you look for a job for six months and then you give up, they consider you give up,” he said. “You just give up. You go home. You say, ‘Darling, I can’t get a job.’ They consider you statistically employed. It’s not the way. But don’t worry about it because it’s going to take care of itself pretty quickly.”
Trump, at one point, went as far as saying the real unemployment rate was in the area of 42%.
In a late-January press briefing, one of his first, Spicer did not want to settle on what the unemployment rate was, saying there are “several versions” put out by the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
The press secretary later said then that Trump “sees people that are hurting,” and that “it’s not just a number” to him. He said the president is “not focused on statistics,” but “if people are doing better off.”
“I think that’s where his head is at,” he said, adding that previously “it’s been about what number we’re looking at instead of what face we’re looking at.”
The BLS classifies people as unemployed if they do not have a job, are available to work, and have sought jobs within the past month. It does not count retirees, students, caretakers, and people who are not seeking work as part of the labour force, from which the unemployment rate is calculated.
Watch Spicer’s comment below:
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