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The White House is celebrating some encouraging numbers this week. Factory jobs are up. Illegal border crossings are down. The new administration is taking credit for both even though those changes are mostly based on expectations of what the White House could do, rather than what they've actually done. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The Labor Department released its first monthly jobs report of the Trump era this morning. And the numbers were solid, if not, spectacular. U.S. employers added 235,000 jobs last month. Chief Economist Nariman Behravesh of IHS Markit says the gains were especially strong in manufacturing, construction and oil drilling.
NARIMAN BEHRAVESH: I would characterize it as a very good report. We've got some momentum going in the labor market, so this is good news.
HORSLEY: The administration was so eager to trump at that news, officials ignored a longstanding rule to withhold comment for at least an hour after the official report. The president waited just 11 minutes before re-tweeting the numbers along with the headline, great again. Trump was often skeptical of positive jobs numbers when President Obama was in office. But his spokesman Sean Spicer says not anymore.
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SEAN SPICER: I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote them very clearly. They may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now.
HORSLEY: Some forecasters were expecting even stronger job gains after an encouraging payroll report earlier in the week. Economist Elise Gould of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute notes hiring in February was roughly on par with the last month of the Obama administration.
ELISE GOULD: It's important to remember that President Trump inherited an economy that was already making steady progress towards full employment. Today's numbers of 235,000 are very much in line with what we saw in January - 238,000 jobs added - or what we saw in February of last year - 237,000 jobs.
HORSLEY: Even if the latest jobs report was not a barn burner, it was encouraging. Unemployment inched down to 4.7 percent. And Behravesh notes hundreds of thousands of new people started looking for work.
BEHRAVESH: There is a confidence effect, and that is translating into jobs growth.
HORSLEY: The young Trump presidency is having a different kind of psychological effect on the southwest border where the number of illegal crossings fell by an estimated 40 percent last month. Would-be migrants tell NPR they've been discouraged by the president's get-tough rhetoric and increased deportations. Spicer says, as with the jobs growth, that's a sign of progress.
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SPICER: These measures reflect that both the economy and the border are already responding to the president's agenda even while we're still in the beginning stages of putting his policies in place.
HORSLEY: The stock market is also on a roll with the Dow up nearly 14 percent since the November election. Behravesh cautions - many of these gains are based on expectations of what Trump will do, not what he's actually done.
BEHRAVESH: While there's been a lot of good talk about rolling back regulations, about cutting taxes, there's only been very, very limited progress so far. So the worry is that we could be setting ourselves up for disappointment.
HORSLEY: For the moment though, the White House is happy to tout some positive results as it begins the tougher task of pushing to replace Obamacare and looks down the road to overhauling the tax code. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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