Friday, October 5, 2012

Unemployment rate down, helping Obama

7.8 rate lowest since Obama took office

The Bureau of Labor statistics released jobs data today (PDF) that will without a doubt help President Barack Obama on the election trail during the final weeks of the 2012 campaign.

The U.S. unemployment rate is down three-tenths of a percent, to 7.8 percent, the first time it's been below 8 percent since President Obama took office. 114,000 net jobs were added in September, which isn't a significant margin. However, delving into the data a little bit more reveals that Obama's economic recovery, though slow, is indeed a reality.

For example, the number of individuals who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks (6-7 months) went down by 189,000 from August to September. Year-to-year, from September 2011 to now, that number has decreased by 1.35 million. The number of short-term unemployed persons also went down: the number of unemployed for less than five weeks has decreased by more than 300,000 individuals from August to September.

These two stats (long-term and short-term unemployment), taken together, suggest it's easier to find work if you lose it.

There are undoubtedly going to be critics who will argue that the overall unemployment rate went down this month due to workers giving up. However, there's good news on that front as well: the number of "discouraged workers" went down by 44,000, and those "marginally attached" to the labor force went down by a similar measure.

The change in unemployment won't be a significant game-changer in this election. And while the numbers are improvements to previous data, it's going at a pace that's considerably slower than most Americans want at this point. Still, President Obama has a serious advantage here. When he talks about his record on jobs, he can say he has a net growth after inheriting one of the worst economies our nation has ever seen from his predecessor. When it comes to the unemployment rate, he can say he brought it back to levels from before he took office.

Mitt Romney will have a difficult time attacking that record. At best, he can say that growth is going too slow -- yet Obama can counter even that attack, stating that he achieved this feat even with a filibuster-crazy Republican Senate caucus in 2009 and 2010, and a completely oppositional Republican-led Congress in 2011 and 2012, which was hellbent on obstructing any improvements to the economy if it meant Obama would get some credit.

For the next few weeks, at least on jobs, Obama is in a strong place to control the debate.

No comments:

Post a Comment