Trump embraces jobs data he once scorned

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Specialist Charles Boeddinghaus, left, and trader Kevin Lodewick work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, March 10, 2017. Stocks are moving higher in early trading on Wall Street after the government reported solid job gains in the U.S. a month earlier. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

President Donald Trump is embracing numbers he once maligned as "phony" as he takes credit for the latest jobs report.

The new administration on Friday promoted new Labor Department statistics that show US employers added 235,000 jobs in February. The unemployment also rate dipped to a low 4.7 per cent from 4.8 per cent.

"Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for (at)POTUS Trump," tweeted White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

"Not a bad way to start day 50 of this Administration," he later said.

It was a jarring contrast from the campaign, when Trump repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the statistics.

Back then, candidate Trump denounced "phony unemployment numbers" he claimed had been invented by politicians to make them look good.

"Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 per cent unemployment. The number's probably 28, 29, as high as 35," he said in February, on the day of the New Hampshire presidential primary election.

Asked about the apparent disconnect, Spicer was unapologetic: "I talked to the president prior to this and he said to quote him very clearly: 'They may have been phony in the past but they are very real now,"' he told reporters at his daily press briefing.

While the unemployment rate has its shortcomings, the jobless rate is one of the prime statistics used to hold US leaders accountable for the economy's health.

While business and consumer confidence have soared since the presidential election, economists also say it's too soon for Trump to be taking credit.

"No new economic policies have yet been enacted," said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West. Instead, he pointed to an unusually mild winter that likely boosted hiring by construction firms as a potential cause.

Trump and Republicans have been quick to claim credit nonetheless.

"The February jobs report exceeded expectations by 50,000 jobs," said the Republican National Committee in an email, "another sign President Donald Trump's pro-growth agenda is spurring businesses to hire 'aggressively."'

"It's not just a question of what we believe. It's a question of what decisions U.S. manufactures and job creators and businesses are making because they want to buy into the president's agenda and vision," added Spicer.

© AP 2017

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