Nobel-winning economist Shiller says the nation’s jobs picture is not as bright as it seems

Nobel laureate Robert Shiller told CNBC on Friday that the unemployment rate reaching new 50-year lows may not actually be the best indicator of job market and economic strength.

“It looks kind of hard to criticize Trump’s economic success,” said the Yale University economics professor, shortly after the government released its September employment report.

Shiller said that the jobless rate last month dropping to 3.5% and matching December 1969 levels certainly can boost confidence. However, he said, “The unemployment rate is a fuzzy number.”

“I don’t know if it is entirely comparable to 50 years ago. We have different thoughts about that now,” argued Shiller, who won the Nobel economics prize back in 2013 for his work on asset prices and inefficient markets.

The drop in the nation’s unemployment rate comes as the U.S. economy saw another sluggish month of job growth. Nonfarm payrolls increased by a lower-than-expected 136,000 in September. Additionally, average hourly earnings were little changed last month, translating into the lowest annualized increase since July 2018.

“The flat wage number in this report suggests it’s not really a strong economy,” Shiller said on “Squawk Box.” “You can spin this report any way you want.”

For President Donald Trump, the headline to focus on is the unemployment number, suggested Shiller, co-creator of the S&P Case/Shiller home prices index. Trump did so Friday, while also using the jobs report to take aim at the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

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