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EPA: Pruitt meant 'mining' jobs, not 'coal' jobs up 50,000 under Trump

SNL Image

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt holds up a hard hat he was given during a visit to a coal mine in April.

Source: AP Photo/Gene Puskar

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently claimed in a televised interview that U.S. coal industry employment has grown by 50,000 jobs under the Trump administration, but meant to say "mining" instead of "coal" jobs.

An EPA official told S&P Global Market Intelligence that Pruitt's claim on NBC's "Meet the Press" was referencing the broader mining sector and was quoting statistics from a June 2 jobs report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. The report noted that the entire mining sector added 7,000 jobs in May — not just the coal sector as Pruitt appeared to claim.

The BLS report pointed out that total mining employment had risen 47,000 since reaching a low point in October 2016, with the largest gains in employment coming from support activities in mining.

In a statement June 5, EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham pointed to rising mining sector employment figures in the recent report from BLS.

"America's miners and drillers are getting back to work under President [Donald] Trump with the seventh straight month of job creation, after 25 consecutive months of decline in the previous administration," Graham said in a June 5 statement. "Administrator Pruitt continues to underscore this administration's real work to bring back American jobs."

Seasonally adjusted BLS data on coal mining shows 51,000 total jobs in coal mining in May, a gain of only about 400 jobs from the prior month. According to an online BLS database, average coal mining employment was at about 49,300 in October 2016, climbed to 49,700 in November and December, and steadily rose to 51,000 in May, though April and May statistics are still preliminary.

BLS data is compiled and estimated from household and establishment surveys.

U.S. coal mines self-report actual average coal mining employment over a three-month period to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration on a quarterly basis. According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of that data, average employment in the U.S. coal sector flattened in the first quarter after a bounce in employment and production in the last half of 2016.

Putting coal miners back to work was a major platform of the Trump campaign. Despite major policy shifts, including steps to undo the Clean Power Plan, reversal of the Stream Protection Rule and the exit from the Paris international climate agreement, coal continues to face a number of headwinds to reversing a structural decline in domestic coal demand.