The 2018 midterms may not entirely be about “the economy, stupid,” but the booming economy will likely play a large role in today’s vote. And to the extent it does, it will definitely benefit Donald Trump, according to a new Axios/Survey Monkey poll, even if it might benefit Republicans slightly less. Trump gets a 53% approval rating on his handling of jobs and the economy, well above his overall job approval rating (46%):
The most fascinating aspect of this poll is how little it appears to help the GOP. While it’s generally true that Democrats usually edge Republicans on the economy in these kinds of polls, that big edge given to Trump would normally have put his party into a commanding position, too. One has to wonder whether the issue in these midterms isn’t whether Trump didn’t talk enough about the economy (fair or not) but whether all the other Republicans didn’t talk about it enough, too. However, it’s also true that it’s not helping Trump’s 2020 ambitions, as Democrats still outscore Trump on the economy in the context of choosing the next president, 51/45.
On the other hand, there’s plenty of potentially good news in this poll for today’s election cycle. Independents approve of Trump’s performance on the economy, 50/46, even while giving the edge to Democrats on the issue 39/43. Suburban white women favor both Trump and Republicans on the economy 52/47 and 52/39 respectively, a big demo for the midterms. Among rural voters, those gaps widen to 62/35 and 54/32.
That may well give a hint as to a potential surprise in turnout today. An analysis of recent economic data by First Trust economists Brian Westbury and Bob Stein shows that the boom in wages over the past year has a hidden secret. The biggest boost comes from workers in the lowest tier of compensation — a bottom-up economic expansion (via King Banaian):
More important is the acceleration in workers’ paychecks. Average hourly earnings are up 3.1% from a year ago, the fastest wage growth for any 12-month period dating back to 2009. Factor-in robust gains in the total number of hours worked, and total cash earnings for workers are up 5.5% in the past year (even excluding one-time bonuses and commissions, like those paid after the tax cut was enacted late last year). That’s the fastest growth in cash earnings since recording began in 2006.
Meanwhile, the Employment Cost Index, a different measure of workers’ earnings, has also accelerated. Wages and salaries for private industry workers are up 3.1% from a year ago, the fastest pace since 2008. A year ago, in the third quarter of 2017, this measure of wages was up 2.6%. The ECI holds the weight of each industry and occupation the same over time, so the boost to wage growth is more likely to reflect faster pay increases for workers at the same job, rather than pay increases due to a shift in the mix of jobs towards those already paying higher wages.
Here’s the best part. A survey from the Labor Department on workers’ usual weekly earnings shows the fastest wage growth is for the bottom tenth of earners. …
It wasn’t that long ago that some analysts were complaining about too much of the job growth coming from part-time jobs. We never bought into that argument, and the data supporting it was weak. The number of people working part-time for economic reasons peaked at about 9.2 million in 2010 and now it’s down to 4.6 million. In the past eight years, part-time jobs in the economy are down 56,000, while we have added more than 17 million full-time positions.
So, now, some argue that faster job growth is due to multiple job holders. But the data don’t show that, either. Multiple jobholders are 5.2% of all workers, which is lower than it was, on average, in both the prior economic expansion (2001-07) and the expansion of the late 1990s.
If there is a turnout surprise that pollsters miss, it may come from the people benefiting from this boom in job and wage expansion. Those people may have enough incentive to protect their long-overdue gains by getting out to the ballot box today. The only question will be whether they’re motivated by a sense of how fragile these gains might be in the case of divided government.
If it’s still “the economy, stupid,” we might see a few surprises tonight.