Once a month the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases new job numbers. The report is always released at 8:30 am, just like many other BLS releases, and before then it’s treated as extremely confidential, just like every other BLS release. How confidential? There are people who have built multi-million-dollar communications networks to get BLS numbers from DC to Chicago a few microseconds before anyone else. That’s how confidential.
A day ahead of time the numbers are shared with the Council of Economic Advisers, who often show them to a few members of the White House staff—including the president, of course. This is done so that the administration can be prepared to talk about them intelligently after they’re made public. Before then, everyone is very tight-lipped about things.
Until now. An hour before the May report was released, President Trump posted a tweet:
Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2018
As Jason Furman notes, Trump wasn’t “looking forward” to seeing the employment numbers. He’d already seen them. He just wanted to telegraph that they were pretty good:
You should have gotten the employment numbers from the Council of Economic Advisers yesterday.
And if this tweet is conveying inside information about a particularly good jobs number you should never get them in advance from the Council of Economic Advisers again. https://t.co/Qd3ig89onT
— Jason Furman (@jasonfurman) June 1, 2018
In a mere three hours this has already been discussed to death, and I don’t have any unique insights to add. It’s pretty obvious why this is bad. It’s bad to telegraph a confidential report ahead of time. It’s bad to make people wonder if the lack of a tweet in the future means the numbers are bad. And it’s obvious to wonder if maybe Trump chatted with a few of his favorite friends about this during his copious executive time last night.
It’s equally obvious, I suppose, that Republicans will all rally around and insist that this is no big deal. And why not? They’ve already made it clear that as long as Trump gives them lots of conservative judges to confirm, they’ll defend anything he does. So this will disappear down the he-said-she-said rathole and a month from now we’ll all be glued to our Twitter feeds around 4:30 am to see if the president is going to give us a hint about the June employment numbers.
In the meantime, this has put Trump front and center, and that’s all that really matters to him. What a feckless cretin.