Final tally: Obama created 11.3 million jobs

— The final tally is in: 11.3 million new jobs were created under President Obama.

The president is claiming a big victory on getting Americans back to work again.

“Businesses that were bleeding jobs unleashed the longest streak of job creation on record,” Obama wrote in a letter to the American people this week.

He’s right: The economy has added jobs for 75 straight months, although his overall jobs gains aren’t as strong as some prior presidents.

The U.S. added 15.9 million jobs under President Ronald Reagan and a whopping 22.9 million under President Bill Clinton if you look at how many Americans were employed in the last full month they were in office versus the January when they were sworn in.

Obama did outpace President George W. Bush though. Bush is in the back of the pack among recent presidents who served two terms. Only 2.1 million jobs were added during Bush’s full tenure.

Obama’s supporters note that he faced a severe challenge that other presidents did not. He took office in January 2009 — in the depths of the Great Recession — when the U.S. was bleeding nearly 800,000 jobs a month. It was the worst economic hole America had seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Obama himself called it a “moment of peril unlike any we’d seen in decades.”

Congress and President Obama acted swiftly with a stimulus package that spent big money on roads and other projects and also gave people tax cuts. The goal was to get people back to work.

It took awhile to kick in, but businesses finally started adding jobs by the end of 2010. Since then, the gains have accelerated: 2014 and 2015 turned out to be the best years for jobs gains since the late 1990s.

The unemployment rate peaked at 10% and is now back down to 4.7% — a level many consider normal for a healthy economy.

There is an ongoing debate about how “good” the jobs added were. Almost all of them were so-called service jobs. Some of those are high-paying like nursing and tech. Others are low-wage, like retail and restaurant jobs.

One of Obama’s regrets is that he wasn’t able to do more to reduce inequality in America.

“We have to acknowledge the inequality that has come from an increasingly globalized economy while committing ourselves to making it work better for everyone, not just those at the top,” he said in his letter.

Obama’s gift to Trump: A ‘pretty solid’ economy

— NEW YORK — President Obama is giving President-elect Trump a welcome gift: A pretty good economy.

Unemployment is at its lowest level since 2007.

Home prices are back at all-time highs.

Growth is picking up. The economy expanded at a 3.2% annual rate from July through September.

Even the middle class is (finally) getting a raise in pay.

“President Trump really is inheriting an economy that’s pretty solid,” said Kevin Hassett, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, on CNBC Friday.

The “Obama economy” deserves a “B or B+” grade, says Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics.

Grading the Obama economy

That’s not an A, but the economy is certainly better off than it was when Obama walked into the Oval Office in 2008. Back then, the country was in the midst of a deep financial crisis and recession. The very month Obama took office, nearly 800,000 Americans lost their jobs.

Obama believes he hasn’t received enough credit for the big turnaround.

“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” Obama said earlier this year.

Unemployment has fallen dramatically from 10% to just 4.6% now. America has gained over 11 million new jobs since Obama took office.

Trump points to those left behind in recovery

Trump has repeatedly called the unemployment rate “a joke” and “a hoax.” It’s unclear whether he will change that message when he takes office. Then he would be able to take credit for keeping unemployment down — or even causing it to go lower.

For now, Trump continues to hammer the Obama economy as terrible.

“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences,” Trump said at a speech at a Carrier factory in Indianapolis, Indiana. “We’re losing so much.”

While hiring has picked up rapidly under President Obama — 2014 and 2015 were the best years of job growth since the late 1990s — the gains have almost all come in the so-called “service sector,” not in manufacturing and blue collar work.

“There are some people doing fabulously well and others on death’s doorstep. And there’s a heck of a gulf in between,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at

The U.S. has 54,000 fewer manufacturing jobs now than a year ago, according to the Labor Department.

Trump is trying to stem that decline. He and vice President-elect Mike Pence negotiated a deal with Carrier to keep about 1,000 jobs in Indiana. Some of those jobs would have gone to Mexico.

The Obama team counters that 1,000 jobs is small compared to the 178,000 jobs added in November alone. It was the 74th consecutive month of job gains under Obama.

Can Trump do better?

Trump and his new team of economic advisers promise to hypercharge U.S. growth. They say they can get it to 4% — stronger than recent years when the economy has grown only 2%.

The question is how.

Trump wants big tax cuts for businesses and individuals. He’s also planning to roll back regulation and spend more on roads and bridges.

Wall Street has given these plans a big thumbs up. The stock market rallied to record levels in November after Trump won the presidency. Business and consumer confidence has also shot up since the momentous win.

The big problem for Trump

There’s just one catch: The U.S. economy has less potential to grow now than in the past, argues economist Ashworth.

Two key factors drive growth: More people entering the workforce and workers being more productive on the job.

Right now, the U.S. has an aging population and little appetite for much more immigration, so it’s hard to see more workers flooding into the workforce. Trump likes to claim 94 million Americans are out of work and need jobs, but that’s not correct. That number includes retirees, people in school and those who have chosen not to work in order to take care of their family.

In reality, about 2.1 million lost their jobs in recent years and appear to have simply given up looking. They are the hidden unemployed. Getting them jobs won’t be easy as many jobs today require specialized skills.

Trump’s big hope is to get productivity up by encouraging businesses to invest more in their factories, research and workers. Business investment has been one of the missing parts of the recovery.

“We’re not quite there yet, but we’ve made a considerable amount of progress,” says Ashworth.

New African-American Museum ‘sold out’ through March 2017

— Call it “museum mania.”

Tickets to the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C. are “sold out” through March 2017. You need a ticket with a date to enter the museum, even though you don’t have to pay for it.

The museum opened September 24 with a lot of fanfare. President Obama delivered a speech at the opening ceremony, which was attended by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and there were musical performances by Stevie Wonder and Patti LaBelle, among others.

The museum came after years of planning and delays. And everyone expected a lot of love and interest. But no one foresaw this level of frenzy.

Related: Over 1,400 people donate to save Langston Hughes’ Harlem home

“Did any of us think we were going to be the next Beyonce or Bruce Springsteen? No,” says Beverly Morgan-Welch, the museum’s associate director for external affairs.

The museum did conduct a study prior to the opening, and accordingly expected 7,500 visitors daily. Instead, close to 30,000 people are pouring in most days.

“Their desire to come is overwhelming our ability to get them in the building,” Morgan-Welch told CNNMoney. “There just isn’t enough space.”

The hysteria is being compared to the Broadway smash-hit “Hamilton,” which was also similarly sold out for months.

So what do you do if you REALLY want to go? You have two options: Go to the museum website to try for a 2017 pass. Or line up outside the museum to try for a “day of” pass.

All the online passes are gone through the end of March. The museum hopes to release next month the next batch of passes, which run from April through June 2017.

In the meantime, fans of the museum are treating this like a new Apple iPhone sale. They start camping out in the wee hours to get a pass for the same day and enter the building when the doors open at 10 am.

People are also spending more time than usual at the museum, which has five floors, 12 exhibitions and 3,000 objects on display.

In a typical museum, visitors spend about two hours browsing around. But people are staying close to six hours at this museum, Morgan-Welch says.

Stars of the political and entertainment world, including the Obamas, the Bushes and Oprah, have donated their time and treasure to the museum. At the grand opening, First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush famously “hugged it out” on stage.

Congressman Xavier Becerra of California is on the museum’s advisory council. He says he is constantly “harassed” for tickets. And these days, one of the hardest parts of his job is telling people there simply are not any more passes left.

He says everyone who visits, walks away remembering an item that sticks in the mind. For Becerra, it’s a tin wallet in the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibit.

That wallet belonged to Joseph Trammell. He made a tin one because he had to carry around his papers in the 1850s stating that he was a free man.

Losing those papers — or letting them fade — could have been the difference between freedom and being forced into slavery.

“It touched everyone. It really brought home what the museum is about,” says Rep. Becerra.

Tickets to the museum are not supposed to be sold since they are free. It’s actually illegal in Washington D.C. to attempt to sell them, but that hasn’t stop people from listing the passes on eBay for as much as $200 for two.

800 people donate to save Langston Hughes’ house

— Soon poetry and music will fill the Harlem home of legendary poet Langston Hughes again.

Over 800 people have donated to a nonprofit arts group that plans to turn Hughes’ long-time home into an arts collective. Money and supported flooded in over the weekend after CNNMoney highlighted the effort to save the home from gentrification on Friday.

The story went viral. Journalist Dan Rather and African-American magazine The Root shared the story on Facebook, among others.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support. We will be able to sign a three year lease with the option to buy or renew,” says Renee Watson, a writer in Harlem who is leading the campaign.

Hughes lived on 20 E. 127th Street in East Harlem from 1948 until his death in 1967. It was an epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance, with jazz and poetry regularly heard by anyone passing by.

Today, the home sits silent. No one lives there. The current owner has attempted to sell it before. With property values in the area skyrocketing, Watson figured it was only a matter of time.

The owner told Watson she would hold off on putting the home up for sale again and even sign a three-year lease, if Watson could raise $40,000 by September 1 to show the effort had momentum. That goal has now been met — and exceeded.

Before CNNMoney’s story, the “I, too” arts collective (named after one of Hughes’ most famous poems about African-Americans, which ends with the line “I, too, am America”) had raised about $25,000 from 238 people. Now the group has over $52,000, as over 550 more people joined in with donations.

Watson’s goal is to raise $150,000 this year. That would be enough for Watson and her all-volunteer team to rent the home for the full year, renovate it a bit and open it to the community for readings, workshops and other events. Ultimately, the “I, too” non-profit hopes to be able to purchase the home.

Housing prices in Harlem have shot up in recent years. The current owner tried to sell the home as recently as 2011, for a mere $1 million. The deal fell through. Now real estate agents estimate that it’s easily worth over $3 million.

The area is known as the last bastion of affordability on the entire island of Manhattan. It’s just north of Central Park and accessible by several subway trains. There’s even a Whole Foods grocery store opening near the Hughes house soon.

The home is landmark protected, so the current owner — or any future owners — would have trouble simply tearing it down and putting in a modern condo.

But for Watson and many donors to the project, the goal isn’t just to keep the home from going to the highest bidder, it’s to revive the house as a place as a cultural center. With donations pouring it, it will no longer be a “dream deferred,” like the first line in one of Hughes’ poems.

Broadway hit ‘Hamilton’ has good life advice

— The hit musical “Hamilton” is Broadway’s equivalent of The Beatles.

“I think I’m going to cry,” a young woman next to me said as show was about to begin. “I can’t believe I’m here.”

Everyone from Bill Gates to Beyonce to President Obama has seen it and taken selfies with the cast. Obama even invited “Hamilton” creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda to the White House this month. Miranda rapped in the Rose Garden.

Sure, “Hamilton” has memorable (rap) music and great acting and dancing. But what makes it stand out is a story of substance. It’s American history — told in a way that makes you want to jump out of your chair, not snore.

Alexander Hamilton was an American Founding Father and the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. He went from being an immigrant orphan to graduate from college and rise to the top of U.S. society. His face is on the $10 bill.

Beyond being fun to watch, the musical has pretty good career — and life — advice. Here are 5 great knowledge bombs from “Hamilton”:

1. “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.”

George Washington gives this advice to a young Alexander Hamilton in the song “Right Hand Man.” Hamilton wants to go to the front during the Revolutionary War and make a name for himself in combat. Washington reminds him it’s easy to charge into most things in life. Smart people think first and figure out how to win the war with more than blind optimism.

2. “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry.”

Hamilton sings this line a few times during the show (for example in the song “My Shot”). It’s basically the motto of Silicon Valley, but it started a lot earlier than that. Hamilton comes across as the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going after what he wants, whether it’s a woman, a debt law or a federalized system of government.

3. “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

Optimism comes up time and again as a key characteristic of successful people. You have to believe in yourself and your team to make something happen. In “Hamilton,” the first people to sing this line are the three Schuyler sisters (in the song titled “The Schuyler Sisters”). One of them, Eliza, marries Hamilton.

4. Aim to be in “the room where it happens”

Aaron Burr, the man who shoots Hamilton, sings a powerful song in the second act called “The Room Where It Happens.” It’s basically the Broadway version of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.” You have to assert yourself. Hamilton excels at this. He talks his way into being Washington’s aide at a young age. Burr on the other hand never gets into the top power broker club because he often waits and hesitates.

5. “I should have known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me”

After Burr kills Hamilton, he sings a song of regret (“The World Was Wide Enough”). He wishes he had realized that both he and Hamilton could succeed, it wasn’t a zero-sum game. A lot of people struggle with jealously. It holds people back personally and professionally.

Bonus: “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

One of lyrics that gets the most applause from Broadway audiences is when Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette talk about getting the job done with their immigrant work ethic to win the Battle of Yorktown. It’s the battle that ends the Revolutionary War.

Each generation of immigrants to the U.S. comes with renewed dreams and drive. “Hamilton” the musical has a diverse cast to remind the world that the American Dream — Hamilton’s dream — has happened for many.

Overdraft fees top $1 billion at the big 3 banks

— You aren’t alone if you’ve ever been hit with an overdraft fee from your bank.

America’s three biggest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — made more than $1.1 billion on overdraft fees in the first three months of the year.

Despite efforts to curb these charges after the financial crisis, they are still a big money maker for banks.

If the fee collection pace keeps up, the big three banks are on track bring in $4.5 billion in overdraft charges by the end of this year. That works out to about $20 for every American adult.

Banks aren’t supposed to charge customers overdraft fees when they use an ATM to get cash unless the customer chooses or “opts in” to get the cash despite the fee. That said, banks can still levy a fee if someone’s balance goes negative because a check is cashed or an automatic payment such as rent goes through and there aren’t sufficient funds to cover it.

A 2014 Pew study found more than half of the people who overdrew their checking accounts in the past year didn’t remember consenting to the overdraft service.

By law, people can also opt out of ATM overdrafts at any time. That way they will not be able to take out money at an ATM if their account balance would fall below $0.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is currently examining overdraft fees, especially when someone is charged multiple fees a day. The typical overdraft fee is $35.

Banks had to disclose their overdraft fees for the first time this year. While the biggest banks have the most eye-popping figures, overdraft fees account for less than 6% of non-interest revenue at JPMorgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, according to an analysis by SNL Financial.

These large banks have many other avenues to make money such as stock and bond trading, investment funds and moving money around for big business customers.

In contrast, some smaller banks have become heavily reliant on overdraft fees to make money.

Woodforest National Bank and First National Bank Texas both get more than 40% of their of non-interest revenue from overdraft charges, according to SNL Financial. The median is under 8%.

Both banks are headquartered in Texas — Woodforest operates over 750 branches in 17 states, while First National is active in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona and has over 280 branches.

“These banks are highly reliant on these charges.” says Tyler Hall, a senior bank analyst at SNL Financial. “It just points out that’s their business model.”

In all, the nearly 600 U.S. banks that had to disclose their overdraft fees made just over $2.5 billion from consumers who overdrew their accounts in January, February or March.


™ & © 2015 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Goodbye 50% off: Deep discounts are ending

— If you’re like me, you rarely walk into stores until the 50% off signs pop up.

We’ve been living in an era of deep discounts since the Great Recession. That trend has only exacerbated with the rise of websites and apps that let us compare prices instantly.

But bargain hunters beware: Titans of the business world want to end those mega deals.

On Monday, Royal Caribbean cruise lines flat out said in a statement that it is looking into its pricing model and taking steps “to eliminate last minute discounting.”

That’s business-speak for goodbye 50% or more discounts. Royal Caribbean is able to do this because bookings are back up as people are once again spending money on vacations.

It’s not just cruises. Harley-Davidson too said it will no longer be playing the price wars.

In its quarterly earnings report this week, the company repeatedly cited “significant price discounting” from other motorcycle makers as a headwind. Some are offering discounts of up to $3,000. But Harley has had enough.

“We will continue to protect our premium brand,” Harley executives said on a call with Wall Street analysts. “We will not take a short-term view of the current competitive situation and compete by discounting.”

Sean Ryan, a partner at A.T. Kearney who specializes in sales and strategy, says companies have become increasingly aware of the psychology of pricing.

“When consumers see high prices, they immediately associate high value. When they see low prices, they immediately associate low value,” Ryan notes.

You can partly blame Wall Street greed for the change. It wants companies, especially retailers, to be more profitable. The general playbook to lift profitability is to cut costs or raise prices (or both).

For consumers it’s a lose-lose situation.

The price hike trend is already underway in the so-called “affordable luxury” and “mid-tier” brands .

Coach is in the midst of a massive overhaul of its handbag and shoe line. The general consensus is the brand got too overexposed on Main Street. Customers grew accustomed to buying the bags at outlet shops and Coach lost its luxury cache in the process. The turnaround plan is to limit the discounts and create more high-end products that retail for hundreds of dollars.

In some ways, it’s a sign that brands are betting that American shoppers are ready to open their wallets. It’s a good sign for the economy if middle and upper middle class consumers are willing to pay a premium for better quality and certain brands again.

The economy has to be in decent enough shape for this “upscaling” to occur.

But for shoppers who have become experts at milking the mega sales, it will be tough to adjust to a new reality, where the 50% off sign just doesn’t show up much, if at all.


™ & © 2015 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.