When Donald Trump was a candidate for president in 2016, he vowed to revive manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania.
Now that he’s been in office for nearly three years and is running for re-election, his campaign says he’s fulfilled that pledge — a point he’s likely to underscore during his speech in Hershey tonight.
But has he?
Or, as the state’s Democrats argue, is the opposite true?
Actually, the answer to both questions is yes, according to the numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That’s because the two sides are citing different periods of time.
Trump’s campaign laid out his position when announcing the Hershey campaign rally 2 1/2 weeks ago.
“Pennsylvania is booming thanks to President Trump and jobs are coming back to the state,” said Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of the re-election campaign.
“Since President Trump’s election, Pennsylvania has added 157,800 new jobs, including 2,900 manufacturing jobs. President Trump is delivering on his promises...,” Glassner said in a statement.
BLS figures show Pennsylvania had 559,900 manufacturing jobs in November 2016, when Trump was elected.
The most recent BLS figures, for October 2019, show the state now has 562,800 such jobs — an upturn of 2,900 jobs over that three-year period.
Expressed another way, that’s an increase of 0.5%.
During that time, the overall unemployment rate in Pennsylvania fell significantly too, from 5.4% in November 2016 to 4.2% in October.
Ditto for the countywide unemployment rate; it’s dipped too. It was 4.1% in November 2016; in October, it was 3.4%.
But Pennsylvania Democrats say the more relevant indicator for evaluating the direction of the state’s manufacturing sector is the most recent year.
As Trump prepared to visit Pittsburgh this October, Democrats said the state has lost about 8,000 manufacturing jobs over that time, the worst loss in the nation.
BLS figures show that too is true.
Comparing BLS numbers for Pennsylvania in August and September shows manufacturing jobs in those months were down 8,200 and 7,900 respectively from a year earlier.
Data for October, the most recent month available, shows the downturn is accelerating — manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania were down 9,700 from a year earlier.
Expressed another way, that’s a drop of 1.7%.
But whether your measuring stick is the past year or past three years, manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania are way down from the economic boom 15 years ago.
That current figure of 562,800 manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania is down 18.9% percent from January 2004’s 694,000.
The Great Recession that ran from December 2007 to June 2009 pared the state’s manufacturing workforce to 569,000. Still, that was 6,200 more than today.
How has Lancaster County performed in those past three years?
It mirrors the state’s positive trend since November 2016 but avoids the negative trend of the past year, state Department of Labor & Industry figures indicate.
The county had 36,500 manufacturing jobs when Trump got elected. By October, that figure had risen to 38,000, an increase of 4.1%.
But unlike the statewide manufacturing figures, there wasn’t a recent peak in 2018, followed by a decrease.
Rather, Lancaster County’s manufacturing workforce has been steadily growing, with the occasional brief backslide.
Both the statewide and county numbers for October come with a few caveats. First, they are preliminary and subject to revision.
In addition, the statewide numbers are seasonally adjusted, to filter out the effect of predictable swings in the labor market caused by the school year, business cycle and other forces. The county numbers aren’t.