Donald Trump wasn't asked much about the economy during his press conference on Wednesday, but when he was, the president-elect managed a rather colossal error.
Trump said that there "are 96 million wanting a job and they can't get (one). You know that story. The real number. That's the real number."
It is unfortunately very far from the real number. There are in fact 96 million Americans age 16 and older who are not in the labor force. Of this, just 5.4 million, or 91 million fewer than the number cited by Trump, say they want a job. The rest are retired, sick, disabled, running their households or going to school. (This number is 256,000 fewer than last year and 1.7 million fewer than the all-time high for the series in 2013.)
Defining the size of the jobs problem in America is critical for the administration and the Federal Reserve to get economic and monetary policy right. If there is indeed a large cadre of Americans who want work but can't get it, it makes sense to have strong fiscal and monetary stimulus. If that number is shrinking, as the data suggest, it means much less policy is needed and too much could ignite inflation.