Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore has been employing his longstanding practice of misrepresenting jobs data to hail President Donald Trump for a non-existent resurgence of coal mining jobs.
Employment in the coal industry has been mired in a decades-long decline due to advances in mining technology, increased automation, a shift toward mountaintop removal, and competition from natural gas and renewables. Not surprisingly, numerous experts and industry observers have called Trump’s promise to put coal miners “back to work” by unraveling environmental protections an empty one. From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:
But according to Trump’s former economic adviser Stephen Moore, coal mining’s implausible comeback is already here. Since Trump issued his executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental protections and begin “withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan” regulating coal-fired power plants, Moore has misrepresented jobs data to claim Trump is already bringing back lost coal mining jobs.
Buried in an otherwise humdrum jobs report for March was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Labor Department that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016 and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.
What a turnaround. It comes at a time when liberals have been saying that Donald Trump has been lying to the American people when he has said that he can bring coal jobs back. Well, so far he has.
Coal mining, another big revitalization promise from Trump, is an even weaker story. The latest jobs numbers for the mining industry overall look promising, with employment steadily increasing and 11,000 new jobs created in March. On closer inspection, though, most of these jobs are in the category of “support services.”
In other words, these aren’t the coal jobs that Trump promised to bring back. These are mostly jobs related to fracking, such as those required to install and maintain equipment needed to drill for oil and natural gas, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. When oil prices rise, which has been happening in recent months, fracking activity increases too.
Nonetheless, Moore doubled down on his misleading claim following the BLS’ April jobs report, writing in a May 9 Breitbart op-ed, “Well, coal is back. The latest jobs report says that 8,000 more mining jobs were added in April. That brings the grand total to more than 40,000 new mining jobs since the election of Donald J. Trump. Does this sound like an industry in decline?”
Moore once again ignored that the vast majority of those jobs were created in categories other than “coal mining.” Had Moore bothered to look at the actual coal mining jobs category, he would know that figure had only grown by approximately 200 and it has barely moved since Election Day.
Even if there were an uptick in coal mining jobs, Vox makes clear that Trump “couldn’t take credit” for that increase since it’s still too early to see any impact from the Trump administration’s policies.
This sort of misleading economic analysis has long been Moore’s calling card and illustrates why The Kansas City Star decided to stop publishing Moore’s op-eds in 2014 after a similar series of statistical games (though Moore’s divorced-from-reality economic analysis is still good enough for CNN). Moore’s false pronouncements of a Trump-inspired coal comeback are just more of the same.