Politifact: Pelosi’s Response to November Jobs Report Is ‘Mostly False’

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks about House matters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images

Politifact on Tuesday said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) response to the Labor Department's November jobs report last week, where she slammed Republican lawmakers, was a "stretch" and "mostly false."

"November’s #JobsReport reveals that even with full control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans have still failed to deliver on their promise of higher wages for working families,"Pelosi said in a statement that she tweeted.

Pelosi's talking point is a "stretch," since federal data shows wage growth since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, according to Politifact.

One of the two key statistics for judging this statement is median usual weekly inflation-adjusted earnings for full-time wage and salary workers age 16 years and over. This information is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is available quarterly.

For the last quarter fully under President Barack Obama–the fourth quarter of 2016–this amount stood at $348.

After Trump took office, it rose to $350 in the first quarter of 2017, rose again to $354 in the second quarter, and remained the same at $354 in the third and most recent quarter.

Politifact noted the $6 increase may not seem significant, but it's still almost a 2 percent increase above the rate of inflation over the course of just three quarters, growth that counters the point Pelosi attempted to make.

"Generally speaking, earnings increase during economic expansions," said Chris Lafakis, a director at Moody's Analytics. "There can be some debate over how much wage growth a healthy economy should have, and who is responsible for the growth, but it can’t be debated that earnings increased under President Obama and they have continued to increase under President Trump."

Politifact's Louis Jacobson said they also looked for wage growth in another Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) number, specifically looking at the average hourly earnings for all private-sector employees. The statistic showed a slow but steady rise in wages, from $25.98 in December 2016 to $26.55 in November. The numbers show a lower rate of wage growth.

Jacobson went on to explain why the two different statistics look different.

"The time period studied is different (hourly vs. weekly), as is the typical case studied (median vs. average). This statistic is also released every month rather than every quarter," Politifact explained.

The most important difference, however, is that the BLS does not adjust the hourly earnings data for inflation. When adjusted for inflation, the earnings gains on Trump’s watch shrink, though they do not disappear. When Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist, ran an inflation adjustment for us, he found that in 2017, average hourly earnings rose by 0.05 percent.

That’s an increase, but it’s barely outpacing inflation.

When we checked with Pelosi’s office, they cited a statement by Gary Cohn, the White House’s own National Economic Council director, who said on CNBC’s Squawk Box that "we're still not growing wages in this country."

Politifact concluded that Pelosi's statement about Republicans failing to deliver on their promise to working families is "mostly false,"  and the best two statistics for judging wage growth counter her critique.