The incoming Trump administration has lofty goals for economic expansion, but demographic trends are working against them, according to Bloomberg. Specifically, in 2016 the U.S. population grew at its lowest rate since 1937, during the Great Depression, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau as analyzed by Standard Chartered Plc. That means slow workforce growth and a slow increase in the economy’s productive potential, all else being equal.
Unrealistic Jobs Goal?
Donald Trump has styled himself a “jobs president,” promising to add 25 million new jobs over the next ten years. Total nonfarm employment, currently 145.3 million according to Bloomberg, would rise by 17.2%. How realistic is this goal?
There are 13 million Americans who desire employment, but are not working. The unemployed number 7.5 million, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 5.5 million are not in the labor force (not actively seeking work) but want to work.
Meanwhile, the Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. population grew by 0.7% in 2016, to a total of 324 million. This rate adds about 2.2 million people each year, but most of this net gain comes from births, which will not augment the workforce for some years. Trump’s anti-immigration position adds to the problem.
Aggressive GDP Targets
The Trump administration is targeting annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the range of 3% to 4%. The last president to achieve this over his full term was Bill Clinton. Absent robust workforce expansion, achieving this target requires significant improvements in worker productivity, Bloomberg notes.
However, the average age of plant and equipment in the private sector is at its oldest since since 1955, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data cited by Bloomberg. This theoretically inhibits productivity growth, which has been under 1% annually from 2011 onwards, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the public sector, plant and equipment are older than ever. Trump’s infrastructure initiative is aimed at this issue.
Real Estate Impacts
New household formation over the last five years was 32% less than in the ten years to 2008, according to Standard Chartered, as reported by Bloomberg. This has negative implications for home builders, as well as for products such as household appliances and furnishings.
Federal Debt Rating
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded U.S. federal government debt to a rating of AA in August 2011. CNBC reports that S&P is concerned about tax cuts and infrastructure spending under Trump that should swell the deficit, absent brisk economic growth. Restoring the previous AAA rating requires more “visibility” and “continuity in policies,” they told CNBC.