Trump, Beating the Odds

U.S. employment increased over President Trump’s first year in office, expanding from 145,541,000 in January to 147,380,000 in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Thus, amid the sound and fury of #NeverTrump media coverage, there has been a significant, and overlooked, development.  Donald Trump has avoided an economic curse shared by nearly every Republican president since the GOP was founded in 1854: presiding over a recession within a year of taking office.

The United States is unique among industrialized countries for its business-cycle chronology, which dates to the mid-19th century and is compiled by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Cambridge-based nonprofit founded in 1920.  The NBER’s cycle chronology is routinely cited in the commercial press, though generally ignored by political journalists unfamiliar with its nuances.  These include relying on peaks in employment and industrial production as recession indicators, while the political media fixate on GDP.  The NBER chronology shows expansion is the normal state of the U.S. economy, interrupted by 33 recessions since 1854.

Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, took office in March 1861 during a recession that started in October 1860, the NBER chronology shows.  It ended in June 1861.  Another recession started in April 1865, the month that Lincoln was assassinated.  Lincoln...

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