Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Money | By Michele Stevens

Trump raises eyebrows by tweeting about sensitive jobs report

Trump raises eyebrows by tweeting about sensitive jobs report

President Donald Trump on Friday shattered several decades of protocol - and possibly violated a federal directive - by hinting strongly that the monthly U.S.jobs report would be a rosy one 69 minutes before its release.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released Friday showed May unemployment at 3.8 percent, the lowest since 1969, with female unemployment at 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1953.

Lawrence Summers, once a director of the National Economic Council under President Obama and a former Treasury secretary for President Bill Clinton, said Trump's statement would have been a "major scandal" for either of the administrations he worked in.

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If Trump did see the numbers, his tweet may have violated a federal rule, issued in 1985, governing the release of embargoed federal data like the jobs report.

Within seconds of Trump's post, the US dollar strengthened and Treasury yields rose, as investors anticipated the strong report they thought Trump had foreshadowed.

"He chose to tweet, his tweet basically said like everybody else we await the job numbers".

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Many on Wall Street questioned the appropriateness of the president tweeting market-moving news.

The U.S. added 232,000 jobs in May, which was much stronger than the 190,000 expected by economists.

Trump is not the first US president to chart the White House's own schedule for commenting on major economic reports.

Industrial production recorded its third straight month of gains, while more than three out of four manufacturers reported hiring more workers and investing more in plants and equipment.

A former member of the President's council of economic advisers under President Obama pointed out the possibility of leaked information sparking insider trading, and said that any leaks should be investigated.

"He clearly knew something, and was telling us", said Eric Hunsader, the founder of Nanex, a company that supplies market data to the financial industry. This appeared to have happened, as traders treasury yields increased following Trump's tweet pushing positive employment numbers. He told ABC News that the Obama administration "absolutely interpreted [the Labor Department rule] as applying" to the president himself.

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The rule further specifies that federal employees other than Labor Department staff charged with issuing the report can not publicly comment on the data for the first hour after the release time, let alone ahead of the report.

A number of USA employers, from seafood processors to hotels and restaurants, have complained that they can not fill jobs with domestic workers and were shut out of the visa process, which this year was run as a lottery for the first time rather than the usual first-come, first-served basis. "As has been said so many times by the president's supporters as well as his critics, this is another case where it would be better for President Trump would be wise to spend his time doing something other than tweeting".

"About two-thirds of the drop in the unemployment rate in May was because workers found jobs, while about one-third of the drop was from people leaving the labor force", wrote EPi economist Elise Gould in a blog post.

"This certainly was a no-no".

"Why not?" Kudlow said.

Kudlow, who also spoke on Fox Business Network, noted that while the White House was wrestling with Congress over legislation to address immigration long-term, "I think you're going to see some progress" on immigrant employment visas near-term.

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