If 2017 was the year of the investor with stock market gains of more than 25 percent during President Trump’s first year in office, 2018 was undoubtedly the year of the American worker.
These past 12 months have slammed Wall Street hard with half of 2017’s stock blockbuster gains surrendered. But for now prosperity has rotated to Main Street USA, where things have rarely been better than in 2018.
The bears on Wall Street of the last few weeks have dominated the headlines, but those losses have obscured the steady bullish gains for workers. Not in the last 50 years has the jobs market been as strong as it is today.
Start with the fact that at 3.8 percent the unemployment rate is matching its low point of the last half-century. Almost half of the states in the union now have their lowest unemployment rates ever recorded by the Labor Department. The labor market is so attractive for workers today that America is literally running out of qualified workers to fill all the jobs.
The latest jobs report spotlights 7 million more job postings than workers available to fill them. That’s a bigger number than the entire population of Indiana. An all-time high 130 million Americans now have a job.
The black and Hispanic unemployment rates in October were lower in 2018 than they have been at any time since the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
This super-tight labor market gives workers more bargaining power with their employers. More and more Americans are demanding wage hikes from their employers and millions got those deserved raises. Pay gains in real terms this year are now estimated at 3 percent — one of the biggest increases in two decades. And don’t believe the Trump-haters who say that only the rich benefited. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the lowest-paid Americans got the biggest gains. Who needs the minimum wage, when we have a booming economy with a tide that lifts all boats.
In 2018 some 4 million workers got pay bonuses from employers thanks to the Trump tax cut. Companies from Disney, to Walmart, to Fed Ex to Amazon handed out bonus checks and benefit boosts typically ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. Sorry, Nancy Pelosi, not too many workers think a check of $2,500 is “crumbs.”
On top of these bonuses, my colleagues at the Heritage Foundation report that the typical middle-class family received more than a $2,000 tax cut this year thanks to the Trump tax plan.
But more than any catalog of statistics, it may be the real-life news stories over the last year that help us appreciate the great American employment surge. CNBC reports that hiring of ex-convicts is rising rapidly as employers search for ready and able workers. In some instances, employers are so hungry for labor that they wait outside the prisons for the inmates to be released so they can hire them.
Or there is the story of truckers in the oil patch in Texas getting $50,000 and even $100,000 signing bonuses — as if they were superstar professional athletes.
In other areas of the country, manufacturers are now advertising on billboards that prospective job applicants don’t have to pass a drug test to be considered. Even 94 percent of high school dropouts who want a job, have one.
The bottom line is this: There has never been in most of our entire lifetimes a better time to be looking for a job than today. Unemployment is nonexistent in almost all parts of the country. Wages are rising for the first time in two decades. Americans are again the most productive and among the highest-paid workers in the world. Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump adviser, titles his new book: “The Blue Collar President.” That is exactly what Mr. Trump is: The working man and woman’s CEO.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times