The strong job growth gives President
Leading Democratic contenders, notably Sens.
The outcome of the presidential race could hinge in part on whether enough voters agree that inequality and rising costs for services such as health care, housing and college education outweigh the benefits from nearly 11 years of economic growth.
"Democratic primary voters are very open to messages about the economy doing badly," said
Furman added, though, "I don't know that that would be consistent for the electorate as a whole."
As the election intensifies, views of the economy remain broadly polarized. According to a
The public overall, Pew notes, holds a more positive view of the economy than at any point in the past 20 years. Fifty-seven percent say they think it is excellent or good, up from 32 percent in 2016.
Trump and his team can point to several positive trends in Friday's jobs report, though his Democratic opponents can cite some evidence for their contrasting views, too.
Robust hiring has picked up from earlier this year, when the trade war with
Yet that trend has nearly reversed itself since 2016. The proportion of Americans in their prime working years -- ages 25 through 54 -- who either have a job or are looking for one has reached its highest point since
Trump officials are also stressing that the job market is now benefiting a wider range of demographic groups.
"We have seen Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, young people, women -- all ... are either at their all-time employment lows or very nearly so,"
Trump has also been touting a "blue collar boom," though the evidence for that is mixed. Manufacturers lost jobs in January for the third time in four months. The employment report shows that if there is such a boom, it is among construction and transportation and warehouse workers, who accounted for nearly one-third of last month's hiring. These jobs often pay less than factory jobs of the past.
Wages are also a mixed bag. Hourly pay rose 3.1 percent in January from a year earlier, a decent pace but below a peak of 3.5 percent reached last summer. The last time the unemployment rate fell below 4 percent, in the late 1990s, wages were rising much faster -- about 4.5 percent annually.
Still, pay is picking up for many low-income workers, a trend that Trump has repeatedly pointed to. For the poorest one-quarter of workers, wages rose 4.6 percent year-over-year in December, the most recent month for which data is available, compared with 3 percent for the richest quarter, according to the
Those outsize gains began in 2015 and have been fueled in part by higher minimum wages in many states.
Yet there are many soft spots in the economy that
Nor has the economy's growth reversed long-running wealth disparities.
Despite the economic strength evident in Friday's job report, analysts warn that hiring could slow in the coming months. January's jobs report was compiled before the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened thousands in