How’s The Trump Job Market? Ask Your Therapist
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. job market — despite a slow February — has kept up roughly the same healthy pace of gains that prevailed before his election. So what, if anything, has changed? Have any professions done significantly better in this presidency than in the last?
Two standouts: miners and psychologists.
Presidential sway over the economy tends to be greatly exaggerated. For the most part, the ebb and flow of human activity is beyond their control. That said, they can have influence at the margin — by, say, changing the tax system, coddling certain industries or helping define society’s wants and needs.
What, then, might Trump have done? To get a sense, I broke down the government’s employment data into more than 350 sectors, ranging from accounting and bookkeeping to manufacturing of wood products. I then compared employment growth before and since his election (specifically, from June 2009 to October 2016 and October 2016 to January 2019), to see which sectors experienced the biggest turnarounds.
Here are the top 10:
Four have something to do with mining. Although this might be in part related to the rebound in oil prices that lasted from early 2016 to late 2018, it also coincides with Trump’s efforts to loosen constraints on the coal and oil industries. He has, for example, pushed (not always successfully) to keep coal-fired power plants operating, killed a rule designed to protect the country’s waterways from pollution, and moved to expand oil drilling off the U.S. coasts.
Coal mining eked out a gain of about 3,000 jobs under Trump, after declining sharply in the preceding several years. More significantly, “support activities for mining,” which includes a lot of actual oil, coal, and other mining done by contractors, gained 106,000 jobs. Here’s how that looks:
Then there are the psychologists. Under Trump, employment growth at “offices of mental health practitioners” — which includes all therapists without a medical degree — has accelerated to an annualized 11.4 percent, adding more than 22,000 jobs. Here’s how that looks:
Is the shock of the Trump presidency sending more people into therapy? Not necessarily. For one, as the chart shows, the sector was growing pretty quickly even before the 2016 election, in what looks like a longer-term trend. Also, the acceleration could have various explanations — for instance, maybe employment and income gains gave more people the wherewithal to afford help. That said, studies have found increased anxiety levels under Trump. And psychologists’ annual percentage employment growth through January is close to the fastest in more than 24 years.
In short, Trump seems to be having some effect on jobs. It would be unfortunate if it came at the expense of the country’s physical or mental well-being.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Mark Whitehouse writes editorials on global economics and finance for Bloomberg Opinion. He covered economics for the Wall Street Journal and served as deputy bureau chief in London. He was founding managing editor of Vedomosti, a Russian-language business daily.
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