What if this is the greatest America is going to get, at least for a while?
That's the challenge to President-elect Donald Trump following a December jobs report that showed employment gains slowing to 156,000 and the jobless rate ticking up to 4.7 percent. Economists now expect the gains to slow down even more in the first half of the year as the economy reaches full employment and companies compete for a dwindling supply of qualified workers.
That means that at least the first few months of Trump's presidency are not likely to show the kind of job gains he promised. And he will face a challenge throughout his presidency of driving the unemployment rate much lower than where it is right now, especially with the Federal Reserve planning two or three rate hikes this year and possibly more if wages and inflation pick up speed.
Trump can take some solace in the fact that wages are now rising at the fastest pace since the end of the recession in 2009 and will probably continue jumping this year even in the face of resistance from the Fed. That will make Americans feel better about the economy and give the new president something to brag about every month.
Conservatives also hope Trump will focus on measurements other than unemployment to measure success in the economy. Trump on the campaign trail repeatedly slammed the smaller size of the labor force, which increased to a still low 62.7 percent in December. If optimism over his plans to slash regulations and taxes encourage companies to expand, especially in the manufacturing sector, and create more low-skilled jobs, he could draw discouraged workers back into the labor force.