WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump broke years of presidential protocol Friday morning by posting a tweet that signaled a strong jobs report was on its way from the Labor Department an hour before the report was released.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics routinely releases its monthly employment report on the first Friday of the month. The night before, under long-standing tradition, the president and several senior administration officials — including the Treasury secretary and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers — are briefed on the numbers, which they are not supposed to disclose until the report is made public at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time the next morning.
But Trump appeared to foreshadow the strength of the latest report Friday morning on Twitter.
Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2018
Social media users saw the message as evidence that Trump had seen the numbers, and that they were good. Sure enough, the report showed that the economy added 223,000 jobs in May, above forecasters’ expectations. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.8 per cent.
Officials at the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council did not immediately respond to questions about whether Trump had been briefed about the report Thursday.
If Trump did see the numbers, his tweet may have violated a federal rule, issued in 1985, governing the release of embargoed federal data like the jobs report.
“All employees of the executive branch who receive prerelease distribution of information and data estimates as authorized above are responsible for assuring that there is no release prior to the official release time,” the rule states. “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.”
Last year, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary at the time, appeared to violate the rule by tweeting about a jobs report 22 minutes after it was released, before the one-hour limit had expired.
Even before the numbers were released Friday, economists said they were stunned at the prospect that Trump was giving hints about the report’s content, which fast-acting traders in financial markets could seize on to place bets on an optimism-fueled market surge.
Other economists went further, raising the possibility that if Trump was willing to give Twitter users a premature hint at the strength of report, he could also have shared the numbers with a more select group even earlier.
“President Trump was sent the jobs numbers in advance,” said Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in Obama administration. “Sharing them with the public is destabilizing and inappropriate. A bigger concern is if he was bragging about them privately to his friends last night — friends who could make millions on the information.”
Trump has celebrated strong jobs reports in the past, after they were issued. He also, before he took office, often dismissed the reports as “fiction.”