State of the Union fact check: What’s true and false in Trump’s address

President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, where he re-enforced his immigration agenda, slammed “ridiculous partisan investigations” and announced he would meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un for a second time later this month.

NBC News fact-checked his State of the Union address as it happened.

Claim: Trump’s administration has created 600,000 manufacturing jobs

Trump’s figure is close. The U.S. has added 454,000 manufacturing jobs since Trump took office in January 2017, some of the biggest gains in 20 years, according to jobs data. Trump’s numbers mark an acceleration of a trend that began in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

Still, after decades of automation and change to the industry in the U.S., manufacturing is a much smaller part of the country’s economy than it was decades ago. While 19.5 million people were employed in the manufacturing industry in 1979, there were 12.8 million Americans in the industry in late 2018.

Claim: Trump says he launched an ‘unprecedented economic boom’

“In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before,” Trump said.

Trump took office amid a booming economy, and he’s been taking credit for it since day one. But there’s no evidence he created this boom. Some economists argue he boosted growth with tax cuts — turbocharging an already booming economy — while others argue the government shutdown, tariffs, and trade war have slowed growth.

Most can agree, however, that Trump’s economy — something he touts among his biggest successes — has been built upon the upward trajectory that began under Obama.

And while America’s economy is strong, it has grown at a faster rate in earlier years. In 1983, for example, the nation’s annual GDP was 7.9 percent. In the second quarter of 2018, the GDP was 4.2 percent.

Claim: Trump says unemployment is at its lowest rate in ‘half a century’

Trump’s figure is accurate, though it’s notably a continuation of a strong growth trend begun after the recession ended in 2010.

When unemployment ticked down to 3.7 percent in September 2018, that indeed marked the lowest jobless rate since December 1969, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the jobless rate has since ticked back up to 4.0 In January, which is above the 3.8 percent achieved in the Clinton administration in April 2000.

It’s certainly true that the economy is in a much-improved place now than it was a decade ago. Joblessness has steadily declined since the end of the economic recession in 2010.

But it’s a fuzzier picture when it comes to whether Trump deserves credit for the low unemployment rate or whether he has continued a trend started by the Obama administration. In the 24 months since Trump has been in office, total non-farm employment has grown by nearly 4.9 million. Over the same period of time (24 months) at the end of Obama’s tenure, total non-farm employment grew by about 5.1 million.

Claim: Trump boasts of energy ‘revolution,’ says U.S. is now No.1 producer of oil and natural gas

Trump said Tuesday night that “we have unleashed a revolution in American energy — the United States is now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas in the world.”

While it’s true that U.S. is the leading producer of both oil and gas in the world, the president is claiming undue credit. That’s been the case since the middle of the Obama administration.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that in 2017, the United States produced the most petroleum and dry natural gas of any country in the world.

But that’s not a recent phenomenon, either. The U.S. has topped the production charts in both categories since 2013 (for petroleum) and 2011 (for natural gas).

Claim: Trump says nothing can compete with America’s economy

Trump said Tuesday night that “there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America,” before later saying the U.S. is experiencing an economic miracle.

While the U.S. economy has been strong overall, it’s not the fastest-growing economy in the world, and some argue that it’s not actually the biggest, either.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent estimates in its World Economic Outlook, India is projected to have the highest rate of economic growth among major economies in 2019 and 2020, at somewhere around 7.5 to 7.7 percent GDP growth rate. China is projected around 6.2 percent growth in 2019 and 2020. The United States, meanwhile, clocks in at just a 2.5 percent rate in 2019 and 1.8 percent in 2020.

The United States does have the highest nominal GDP of any country in the world, per the IMF. That measure does not take into account cost of living in various countries, so many economists use also a measure called purchasing power parity, which adjusts gross domestic product for lower consumer prices and standards of living. Using that measure, China surpassed the United States as the biggest economy in the world back in 2014.

 

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