Trump’s lie about US GDP growth, debunked

Making a list. Checking it twice.
Making a list. Checking it twice.
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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Donald Trump often suggests that numbers bend to his will, whether it’s his net worth, poll ratings, or stats about the US economy on his watch. But it’s hard to spin the numbers behind his latest boast, delivered via tweet today:

Put simply: No, it’s not.

At 4.2%, GDP growth in the second quarter of this year did surpass the latest reading on unemployment, 3.9% in August. But setting aside the complications of comparing quarterly and monthly data, this is far from the once-a-century event Trump claims.

Since 1950, GDP growth has been higher than the jobless rate more than 60 times. 1

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Further back in time, there are probably even more occasions when GDP growth outpaced the unemployment rate.

And why compare growth and unemployment, anyway? It’s statistically strange to compare a stock (the number of employed) with a flow (the rate of economic production), as economist Justin Wolfers points out. So while not nearly as rare as Trump appears to believe, the comparison itself is of dubious significance.