At 7:21 a.m. Friday, President Trump posted an unusual tweet suggesting that the forthcoming May jobs report would be strong.
“Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning,” Trump wrote.
Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2018
Traders picked up what Trump was laying down. Treasury yields shot up in the hour between Trump’s tweet and the jobs report’s release.
This is…unusual. Trump tweeted about jobs day at 7:21am EST, suggesting he knew the numbers would be surprisingly good. https://t.co/k35UPSEPI6 That's how the market took it anyway, with U.S. yields taking a leg higher right after. Raises a lot of questions. pic.twitter.com/TcN9oLNYqU
— Lisa Abramowicz (@lisaabramowicz1) June 1, 2018
Indeed, as Trump suggested, the report was strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a better-than-expected 223,000 new jobs were created in May, and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest since 2000.
big May jobs report pic.twitter.com/2BrYzJ2qny
— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) June 1, 2018
But Trump’s tweet is at odds with federal regulations, which says that “employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”
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. 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.
According to Office of Management and Budget regulations, “The agency will provide prerelease information to the President, through the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, as soon as it is available.”
If he tipped it, potus just broke the law https://t.co/8MDJZAS22j
— Austan Goolsbee (@Austan_Goolsbee) June 1, 2018
As The Washington Post explains, prior to its official release, the jobs report “is extremely closely held and kept under tight control.”
“The Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers is traditionally given the report the day before it is released, and it can often be shared with the president after that time,” the Post adds. “But the president – and other administration officials – never tip their hand about what the numbers reveal.”
Trump’s tweet establishes a precedent that could be problematic going forward. With the president having now broken long-established protocol and proven that he’s willing to tease strong jobs reports, it seems likely traders will make the opposite inference if he says nothing.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s decision to tweet about the jobs report in advance, and confirmed he was briefed about it last night.
I just asked Sarah Sanders if it was appropriate for President Trump to tweet about the jobs report before release this morning. She said it was, because “he didn’t put the numbers out.” She also confirmed that the President was briefed on the number last night.
— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) June 1, 2018
Meanwhile, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow sought to distance himself from the president’s decision to provide a preview of the report.
On CNBC, Larry Kudlow downplays Trump's jobs report hype tweet, which appeared to violate federal law: "It's my call whether to send [the numbers] over to the president. That's just what I did last evening… he chose to tweet… I don't think he gave anything away." pic.twitter.com/6YDMHAzbx5
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 1, 2018