Summary

Now that Donald Trump has been president for three years, what has changed? Here are some things that can be measured:

The economy added 6.7 million jobs, and unemployment fell to the lowest rate in half a century.The economy grew more slowly than Trump promised — at a 2.1% rate most recently.Stock prices hit record levels.Household income grew; poverty decreased, and paychecks grew 2.5% after inflation.Home prices reached record levels; homeownership increased.The number of people lacking health insurance rose by nearly 2 million.Federal deficits soared, adding $2.8 trillion to the national debt.

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Overall, the rate of violent crimes per 100,000 people went down 4.6% during Trump’s first two years. That included a 16.2% drop in the robbery rate, and a 0.6% decline in the rate of aggravated assault.

However, the number of reported rapes per 100,000 people went up — by 4.2%. (A rise in rapes and sexual assault in 2018 was also noted in the National Crime Victimization Survey, released Sept. 10, which covers crimes that are not reported to police, as well as those that are.)

The number of property crimes per 100,000 people went down 10.3% during Trump’s first two years, including a 19.8% drop in the burglary rate, an 8.6% drop in the rate of larcenies (such as shoplifting), and a 3.5% decline in the rate of motor vehicle thefts.

Guns

Sales and production of guns pulled back under Trump, after surging to record levels during the Obama years.

Handgun Production — In 2018, annual production of pistols and revolvers in the U.S. totaled just under 4.3 million, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released July 22.

That represented a decline of 23% from 2016, when production surged to a record level of nearly 5.6 million.

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Those NSSF-adjusted figures dropped from a record 15.7 million in Obama’s final year to 13.2 million in 2019 — a decrease of 15.9%. But that was still 46.8% above where sales had been in 2008, the last year before Obama took office.

These figures cover rifles and shotguns and previously owned weapons, as well as new handguns. They are only an approximation of actual sales, since some of these checks cover purchases of multiple weapons, and of course some sales still occur without background checks.

Coal and Environment

Coal Mining Jobs — As a candidate, Trump promised to “put our miners back to work,” but so far not many have regained their jobs.

As of December, only 1,200 coal mining jobs had come back since Trump took office, according to BLS figures. That’s 3% of the 35,600 coal mining jobs that disappeared during the Obama years.

U.S. coal production last year was on track to be the lowest in 41 years. During the 12 months ending in November (the most recent for which figures are available), the Energy Information Administration estimated that 715 million short tons were produced, which is 1.8% below the figure for 2016. The last time annual production was this low was 1978.

The outlook for coal miners remains bleak. This month EIA predicted that coal production would fall 14% more in 2020. EIA expects natural gas will continue to displace coal for the generation of electricity.

Carbon Emissions —Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption rose under Trump — but the rise seems to be a temporary blip in a long downward trend that started years before he took office.

Figures from EIA show CO2 emissions were 0.5% higher in the most recent 12 months on record (ending in September) than they were in 2016.

In the decade before Trump took office, emissions fell by a total of 14.5%, due mainly to electric utilities shifting away from coal-fired plants in favor of cheaper, cleaner natural gas, as well as solar and wind power. Under Trump, the trend reversed with a 2.9% increase in 2018.

But that year was an anomaly. A hotter than normal summer and colder than normal winter resulted in higher natural gas consumption. EIA is currently estimating that CO2 emissions fell 2.1% in 2019, and will continue going down this year and next.

Border Security

Illegal border crossings surged to the highest in a dozen years. The total for last year was 799,669, the highest annual total since 2007 and 81% higher than in 2016, the year before Trump took office.

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Migration is seasonal. Attempted border crossings tend to be highest in March, April and May and lowest in December.

In May, 132,856 people were apprehended trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without permission, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That was the highest total since March 2006, when the monthly total hit nearly 161,000.

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Following the usual pattern, apprehensions fell in each of the last six months of 2019, to 32,858 in December. But that figure was still above the average for a December in the Obama years, which was 27,688.

Last year’s surge was different from those of earlier years, when most attempted border crossings were made by Mexican males seeking work. But in the peak month of May last year, over 72% of those apprehended were either unaccompanied children or part of “family units” made up of a child under 18 accompanied by a parent or guardian. Border Patrol officials said they are coming primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and many are seeking asylum.

Corporate Profits

After-tax corporate profits remained near record levels under Trump. During 2018, they hit $1.84 trillion for the year (see line 45), just under the record $1.86 trillion recorded for 2014. During the third quarter of 2019, profits still were running at a yearly rate of nearly $1.84 trillion, very close to the full-year figure for 2018.

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The most recent quarter’s annual rate is 5.6% higher than the full-year figure for 2016, the year before Trump’s inauguration.

Stock Market 

Stock prices continued their decade-long rise with Trump in office, setting new records last year and then again in the new year.

At the close on Jan. 17, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock average was 47.1% higher than it was on the last trading day before Trump’s inauguration.

Other indexes took similar rides. At the Jan. 17 close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, made up of 30 large corporations, was up 48.7% under Trump. And the NASDAQ composite index, made up of more than 3,000 companies, closed on Jan. 17 at 69.5% higher than before Trump took office.

The bull market began its rise in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, and became the longest in history in 2018, passing its 10th anniversary in March of last year.

Wages and Inflation

The upward trend in real wages continued under Trump, and inflation remained in check.

CPI — The Consumer Price Index rose 6% during Trump’s first 35 months, continuing a long period of historically low inflation.

In the most recent 12 months, ending in December, the CPI rose 2.3%. The CPI rose an average of 1.8% each year of the Obama presidency (measured as the 12-month change ending each January), and an average of 2.4% during each of George W. Bush’s years.

Wages — Paychecks continued to grow faster than prices.

The average weekly earnings of all private-sector workers, in “real” (inflation-adjusted) terms, rose 2.5% during Trump’s first 35 months (ending in December).

Those figures include managers and supervisors. Rank-and-file production and nonsupervisory workers (82% of all workers) are doing just a bit better than their bosses. Real earnings for them have gone up 2.6% so far under Trump.

Those gains extend a long trend. Real wages took a dive during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, but have been rising now since hitting a low point in July 2008. During the Obama years, real weekly earnings rose 4% for all workers, and 4.2% for rank-and-file.

Consumer Sentiment

Consumer confidence in the economy rose under Trump.

The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers monthly index first soared to a peak of 101.4 in March 2018, which was the highest in 14 years. Since then confidence sagged a bit, and has fluctuated. The preliminary figure for January, released Jan. 17, was 99.1. That is 11.9 points above where it was in October 2016, just before Trump was elected after promising to boost economic growth.

Home Prices and Ownership

Home Prices — Home prices soared to record levels under Trump.

The national median price of an existing, single-family home set a record high of $288,500 in June 2019, according to sales figures from the National Association of Realtors.

Prices have moderated a bit since then, but still stood at $274,000 in November, the most recent monthly figure available. That is $45,300 higher than the median price of $228,700 for homes sold during the month Trump took office — a gain in value of 19.8%. The rise in the Consumer Price Index during the same period was 5.8%.

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The Realtors’ figures reflect raw sales prices without attempting to adjust for such factors as variations in the size, location, age or condition of the homes sold in a given month or year. Even so, a similar pattern emerges from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which compares sales prices of similar homes and seeks to measure changes in the total value of all existing single-family housing stock.

The Case-Shiller index for October sales (the most recent available) was at a record high — and 15% above where it stood in the month Trump took office. 

Whichever way you measure it, homeowners have seen the value of their houses rise substantially since Trump became president.

Homeownership — The percentage of Americans who own their homes has continued to recover under Trump.

Back in 2004 the homeownership rate hit a record 69.2% of households for two quarters, but then began a years-long slide, hitting bottom in the second quarter of 2016 at 62.9%. That was the lowest point in more than half a century, and tied for the lowest on record.

The rate recovered 0.8 points in the six months before Trump took office, and went up another 1.1 points under Trump, reaching 64.8% in the fourth quarter of 2018, and again in the third quarter of 2019, the most recent Census Bureau figures available.

But that’s still 4.4 points below the peak level of 15 years earlier.

Trade 

The trade deficit that Trump promised to reduce grew much larger during his first two years, but may have stabilized in his third.

The most recent government figures show that the total U.S. trade deficit in goods and services during the most recent 12 months on record (ending in November) was nearly $624 billion. That’s an increase of $121 billion, or 24%, compared with 2016.

However, all that increase took place during 2017 and 2018, when the deficit surged nearly 25%. It may have declined a bit in 2019. December’s figures haven’t yet been released, but in the first 11 months of last year the deficit was 0.7% below the same period in 2018.

China — The goods-and-services trade deficit with China is 10.6% higher under Trump, a much smaller increase than in the U.S. trade gap overall.

Trump began a full-scale trade conflict with China in early 2018. At first the trade gap with China continued to go up, but that turned around in 2019; in each of the first three quarters the deficit with China got progressively smaller.

However, the smaller deficit comes at a price — a throttling of trade in which both sides suffer. U.S. exports to China in the most recent quarter were 5% below the same quarter a year earlier. And the pain was three times worse in China. Their exports to the U.S. went down 15% in the same period.

The trade war continues. Trump signed a “phase one” trade deal with China Jan. 15, under which the U.S. held off on new tariffs while China promised to buy more U.S. agricultural goods. But the big issues aren’t settled. China has yet to agree to reduce subsidies to exporting businesses or to limit its demands that U.S. businesses share their intellectual property.

Mexico — Meanwhile the much smaller trade deficit in goods and services with Mexico has grown much faster than the global trade gap. It totaled $97 billion during the 12 months ending in November, an increase of 57% compared with 2016. 

Canada — The trade surplus that the U.S. runs with Canada has dwindled to nearly nothing under Trump. The trade balance was positive by only $406 million during the 12 months ending in November. That surplus has shrunk by 95% since 2016. 

On Jan. 16 the Senate voted final approval of a new trade agreement Trump signed over a year earlier with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. The pact was revised to satisfy demands by Democrats for stronger enforcement of labor standards and environmental protections, clearing the way for House approval on Dec. 19. It is expected to take effect in the near future, and will replace the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump had promised to scrap during his campaign. The new agreement will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Health Insurance Coverage

The number of people lacking health insurance rose by nearly 2 million under Trump.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Sept. 10 that the number of Americans who lacked health insurance for all of 2018 was 27.5 million — up from 25.6 million in 2017. That’s an increase of 1.9 million.

It was the first time in a decade that this number increased. The percentage of Americans without coverage for the entire year rose to 8.5%, from 7.9% the year before.

(A technical note: Normally we would compare the most recent figures with those from 2016, before Trump took office. But last year Census used a new “improved” method to estimate the uninsured population in 2017 and 2018, and said these figures shouldn’t be compared with estimates produced in earlier years.)

The Census report confirmed a trend we’ve been tracking using a somewhat different measure released on a more frequent and timely basis by the National Health Interview Survey. The NHIS put the number of people who lacked coverage at the time they were interviewed — not necessarily for the entire year — at 30.4 million in 2018, an increase of 1.8 million over 2016.

The NHIS said 9.4% of the population lacked coverage at the time of interview in 2018, up from 9% in 2016.

A much greater rise was reported by a Gallup survey covering the final quarter of 2018. Gallup on Jan. 23, 2019, put the rise in uninsured adults at about 7 million, compared with the last half of 2016. Gallup put the percentage of uninsured adults at 13.7% in the October-December quarter. For details, see our Feb. 12 story, “Did the Uninsured Increase by 7 Million?“

Trump failed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act as he promised to do, but did slash advertising and outreach aimed at enrolling people in Obamacare plans. In December 2017 he signed a tax bill that ended the ACA’s tax penalty for people who fail to obtain coverage, effective last year. And in March 2019 the Trump administration joined an effort by GOP state attorneys general seeking a court decision to overturn the entire act. But on Dec. 18, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled 2-1 that only the provision requiring individuals to buy health insurance should be struck down because the penalty had been repealed — and it sent the case back to a district court judge to reconsider whether other parts of the law ought to fall.

Food Stamps 

The number of food stamp recipients dropped to the lowest levels in a decade.

Early last year the number dropped below 37 million for the first time since October 2009, when millions were signing up for benefits in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

As of October last year, the most recent month for which figures are available, 36.4 million people were receiving the aid. 

The number of food stamp recipients has gone down 6.3 million, or 14.8%, since January 2017, when Trump took office.

The number of recipients is now 11.4 million below the peak month of December 2012. But it is still 9 million above where it was at the start of the Great Recession, in December 2007, despite years of an improving economy.

The administration is working to reduce the number further. In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a rule that will tighten work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents, effective April 1. That will cause 688,000 fewer people to be eligible for benefits in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, according to the department’s regulatory analysis. 

And last July, the Trump administration proposed another rule that it said could remove another 3 million people from the rolls. That rule would take away flexibility that many states now use to grant food aid to people with income or assets exceeding federal limits.

Judiciary Appointments

Trump is putting his mark on the federal appeals courts more quickly than Obama was able to do in his time in office.

Supreme Court — So far Trump has won Senate confirmation for two Supreme Court nominees, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Obama also was able to fill two high court vacancies during his first two years in office, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan. But the Kavanaugh nomination to fill the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement is significant because Kavanaugh may move the court to the right. He is considered to be more conservative than Kennedy, who sometimes sided with the liberal justices to provide deciding votes on issues including gay rights, abortion, capital punishment and affirmative action.

However, Kavanaugh disappointed abortion foes when he sided with the court’s liberals on one of his first votes, against taking up a case about whether citizens should be allowed to sue states that cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood health clinics.

Court of Appeals — Trump also won confirmation of 50 U.S. Court of Appeals judges (30 during his first two years and another 20 in 2019). That’s double the total for Obama, who won confirmation for 25 as of the same point in his first term (16 during his first two years and nine more in 2011). 

Trump has now installed nearly 28% of all the 179 appellate court judges authorized by federal law.

District Court — Trump also outpaced Obama on filling lower courts. Trump has won confirmation for 133 of his nominees to be federal District Court judges as of the end of 2019. That’s nearly 20% of the 677 authorized district judges. Obama had won confirmation for 99 at the same point in his presidency.   

Trump has also filled five seats on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which has nationwide jurisdiction over lawsuits seeking money from the government. And he has filled two seats on the U.S. Court for International Trade. Obama filled none to either court during his first term.

Trump must share responsibility for this record with the Republican majority in the Senate. Republicans not only refused to consider Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy eventually filled by Gorsuch, but they also blocked confirmation of dozens of Obama’s nominees to lower courts. Trump inherited 17 Court of Appeals vacancies, for example, including seven that had Obama nominees pending but never confirmed.

Federal Debt and Deficits

The federal debt went up more than $2 trillion under Trump, as trillion-dollar annual federal deficits returned. And there’s no end in sight.

The federal debt held by the public stood at $17.2 trillion at the last count on Jan. 16 — an increase of nearly $2.8 trillion since he took office. That’s a 19.3% increase under Trump. And that figure will go up even more quickly in coming years unless Trump and Congress impose massive spending cuts, or reverse course and increase taxes.

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Trump’s cuts in corporate and individual income tax rates — as well as bipartisan spending deals he signed in 2018 and 2019 — are causing the red ink to gush even faster than it did before. 

The federal government’s annual deficit hit $984 billion in fiscal year 2019, which ended Sept. 30 last year. 

CBO’s most recent update of its Budget and Economic Outlook, issued Aug. 21, projected that under then-current law annual deficits would top $1 trillion in the current fiscal year and average $1.2 trillion each year from 2020 through 2029. But then just five days before Christmas, Trump signed another $1.7 trillion bipartisan spending deal that the head of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget called “fiscally reckless.”

CBO is still digesting that and other factors, and is due to issue a new projection sometime this month.

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The debt is now equal to about 78% of the nation’s entire gross domestic product. CBO said Oct. 3 that if current laws aren’t changed, the debt “would approach 100 percent of GDP by the end of the next decade and 152 percent by 2048.” That would be far higher than the debt the U.S. ran up during World War II, which was the highest in the nation’s history.