More than anything else, the performance of the economy during the next several years is likely to determine whether Donald Trump succeeds or fails as president.
So how’s he doing? And how should we measure his success in the future?
Well, for starters, the economy has earned a solid B since Trump took office in January, according to an exclusive Trumponomics Report Card Yahoo Finance has developed to track the economy during Trump’s time in office. The reasons may be surprising: Trump has earned top marks for wage growth, for example, while manufacturing employment—a key focus for Trump—has been strong so far in his presidency. The rise of the stock market, on the other hand, hasn’t boosted the Trump economy as much as breathless financial-market headlines might suggest.
In coming months, Trump’s economic grade is likely to benefit from GDP growth, which was weak in the first quarter but is expected to bounce back strongly in the second. Job gains will buoy Trump’s grade for months, if the current pace of job growth persists. One weak spot could be exports, which are vulnerable to a rising dollar, along with trade friction. Overall, the Trump economy is off to a strong start, making it Trump’s challenge to simply manage an economy on the verge of booming—while also doing no harm.
Our Trumponomics Report Card assesses the performance of the economy on six key measures, comparing Trump’s record to that of six prior presidents at the same point in their first terms. We limited this analysis to first terms only, since that’s when most of the policy changes a new president might favor are likely to go into effect. So we measure Trump’s performance against that of Barack Obama starting in 2009, George W. Bush starting in 2001, Bill Clinton starting in 1993, Georg H.W. Bush starting in 1989, Ronald Reagan starting in 1981 and Jimmy Carter starting in 1977. Prior to that, the data is less consistent and in some cases unobtainable.
The blue dots in the graphic above represent the performance of the Trump economy, relative to that of the other presidents. Since we’re comparing Trump with 6 other presidents, there are 7 dots, including one for Trump and 6 for the others. The one exception is exports, because that data only goes back to 1993; so we have only three presidents to compare Trump against, or 4 dots total.
Moody’s Analytics is providing the data for the report card, and offering analysis on the current state of the economy to help explain the results. “The benefit of this tracker is whether you’re a Trump supporter or a Trump detractor, it’s not political,” says Ryan Sweet, director of real-time economics at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s very transparent. The data tells the story.” To that end, we’ve published a full explanation of our methodology for those who want to dig into the numbers.
Here’s an overview of Trump’s economic performance on the six indicators we’re following.
Employment: The economy created 522,000 new jobs in March and April, which is our starting point for measuring presidential performance on the economy. (Our methodology explains why.) That places Trump third out of the 7 presidents we’re looking at, behind Jimmy Carter in 1977 and George H.W. Bush in 1989. The Carter economy, while known for “malaise,” was actually bouncing back from a nasty recession in the mid-1970s, while the Bush economy was in the late stages of a prolonged boom. The worst performer on jobs at this point in his presidency was Obama, who inherited the worst recession since the 1930s and was down 2.2 million jobs in just his first two months.
Manufacturing employment. Trump has decried the loss of manufacturing jobs, yet employers created 41,000 of them in March and April, giving Trump better marks at this stage than the other presidents, except for Carter and Reagan.