President Donald Trump appeared to signal that the Bureau of Labor Statistics would release a strong monthly jobs report.
“Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning,” Trump tweeted at 7:21 a.m. ET.
Given the president’s penchant for self-promotion, many assumed this meant a strong report was coming because Trump is one of a few federal officials who sees the report on Thursday before it’s released to the public.
This is a big deal because the jobs report, also referred to as the nonfarm payrolls (NFP) report, is one of a handful of reports with the power to move global financial markets. Indeed, U.S. stock futures took the hint, pointing to a higher market open on Friday. (It’s worth noting that investors were also optimistic as Italy announced late Thursday that it would be able to form a government.)
The U.S. added 232,000 jobs in May, which was much stronger than the 190,000 expected by economists. And the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, the lowest rate since the late 1960s.
“Employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data”
The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers briefs the president on the jobs numbers the afternoon before they are released. It’s standard procedure.
“The NFP numbers go to the Treasury Secretary, the Fed Chairman, chair of the Presidents [Council of Economic Advisors] & [National Economic Council] Director,” tweeted former U.S. Treasury official Tony Fratto. “It’s up to them to brief the POTUS if he wants it, and we should assume he has been.”
Why do this if there’s a risk of a leak?
“The idea is – if there’s data happening that might cause a problem or require alerting the Federal Reserve chair, the CEA chair has the legal authority and responsibility to inform others [including] the president,” said CEA Chair Kevin Hassett to Yahoo Finance. “I can tell you President Trump really cares about the economic data. The jobs report probably is the most important data item for him.
There is a federal law governing when the officials who have early access to the report can speak about it publicly. They’re required to wait at least an hour, a rule Trump has broken already. Friday’s tweet, however, was the first time he’s ever spoken about the job’s report before it was released.
The rule states: “All employees of the Executive Branch who receive pre release distribution of information and data estimates as authorized above are responsible for assuring that there is no release prior to the official release time. Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”
It remains to be seen if regulators will take any action.