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Since of course there’s no Mainstream Media bubble or echo chamber, it must be a total coincidence that the press last week was filled with articles noting that the U.S. economy today (which President Trump keeps praising) looks pretty similar to the U.S. economy before the last presidential election (which candidate Trump decried).

Generally speaking, these observations are right – with one important exception that’s been universally overlooked: Job creation this year so far has owed significantly more to the “real private sector” of the American economy and less to the “subsidized private sector.” That is, more hiring is coming in the part of the economy in which employment levels generally reflect free market forces, and therefore speak volumes about the whole economy’s fundamentals. And less hiring is taking place in industries like healthcare services, where job creation largely reflects levels of government support that stems from political decisions. Therefore, however worthy their services, employment performance in these sectors says little about the state of the economy.

RealityChek observed the possible start of this trend two months ago. Now that we’re halfway through the year, it looks more solidly established. As usual, the best evidence comes from comparing job creation in the first six months of this year with job creation during the same periods in past years. (Keep in mind, however, that the statistics for May and June, 2017, are still preliminary; that is, they’ll be revised in the next two months – and then revised again early next year along with the results for all of 2017. For good measure, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will recalculate them again further down the road.)

For the first six months of this year, total U.S. net employment gains (in the “non-farm” sector that represents the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American employment universe) came to 1.079 million. Of these, 20.95 percent came in the subsidized private sector, and 74.05 percent came in the real private sector. (The rest came in government at all levels.)

Those figures are much different than those for the first six months of 2016 – 28.44 percent and 60.83 percent. In fact, the January-June 2017 results represent the first time since 2014 when the subsidized private sector share of total job creation fell and the real private sector share rose. At the same time, the subsidized private sector’s role in total hiring is way up from January-June, 2013 – when it was only 14.22 percent. And the real private sector’s role is way down (from 92.63 percent that year).

Another way to look at hiring developments: During the first half of 2013, subsidized private sector job creation totaled 13.31 percent of job creation in the private sector as it’s conventionally defined (that is, including the subsidized industries). By the first half of 2016, the subsidized industries’ share of conventionally defined private sector net new employment had more than doubled: to 31.86 percent.

Finally, let’s see how these employment numbers have changed on a stand-still basis.

In December, 2007 – on the eve of the Great Recession – the subsidized private sector accounted for 13.22 percent of all non-farm jobs, the share of the private sector conventionally defined was 83.83 percent, and that of the real private sector was 70.62 percent.

In June, 2009 – when the recovery began – these figures were: subsidized private sector, 14.97 percent; conventional private sector, 82.77 percent; and real private sector, 67.80 percent.

And this June? Subsidized private sector, 15.78 percent; conventional private sector, 84.73 percent; and real private sector, 68.96 percent.

In other words, although the punch has slacked off a bit, the subsidized private sector is still punching above its weight when it comes to job creation. We know this because its share of new hiring for the first six months of this year (20.95 percent) remained greater than its share of total American employment as it stood in June (15.78 percent). The real private sector is outperforming, too, but the gap is much smaller proportionately.  (The – big – slacker has been the public sector.)

Also, eight years into the current economic recovery, the real private sector’s share of total American jobs is smaller, and the subsidized private sector’s share is larger, than they were at the start of the expansion.

There’s no doubt that the American job market today is in much better shape than it was at the start of the recovery – and that most of this progress took place before President Trump took office. Nor is there much reason to doubt that until the economy’s reliance on the subsidized private sector for job creation falls considerably more, it will difficult to claim legitimately that the employment scars of the recession have fully healed. But something else that’s now increasingly clear is that a crucial job quality front, the Trump economy is looking notably different – and better.    

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