The politics of the unemployment report

The jobless numbers could play a role in the election.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 5, 2012 1:44PM

By Jim Kuhnhenn, The Associated Press


President Barack Obama, reeling from a poor debate performance, won a valuable reprieve Friday with a reduced unemployment number in September that brought the jobless rate down to a level unseen since January 2009 when he took office.


The new threshold carries more political than economic weight. The Labor Department reported that employers added 114,000 jobs in September, slightly better than expected but still below levels needed to sustain a reduction in unemployment.


But the report held several good signs for Obama as he and rival Mitt Romney enter the final four weeks of the presidential campaign in an election dominated by the economy and high unemployment. The economy created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than initially estimated, a sign of the volatility of the jobless reports and their unreliability as a snapshot of the economy.


The Labor Department also reported wage growth in September, evidence of more people looking for work.


Still, Romney cast the new reports as further sign of a weak economy under Obama.


"This is not what a real recovery looks like," he said in a statement, noting that the figures showed fewer jobs created in September than in August and, that if people who have dropped out of the labor force were counted, the unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent.


The new numbers come less than 36 hours after the economy dominated the first presidential debate of the general election, reinvigorating Romney and leaving Obama on the defensive.


After Friday's numbers there is only one more unemployment report left before the Nov. 6 election.


Jobs have been a central theme in this election. The words "job" and "jobs" were among the most frequently mentioned in Wednesday's debate in Denver, uttered at a rate of more than once every two minutes in a 90-minute showdown.


A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that the vast majority of voters already have settled on a candidate, but 17 percent of likely voters are considered persuadable — either because they're undecided or showing soft support for Obama or Romney. Roughly 56 percent of persuadables approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, but fewer, 47 percent, approve of his handling of the economy.


"The main effect of this particular number is going to be primarily political," said Bruce Bartlett, an economist in President George H.W. Bush's administration. "It gives Obama a talking point, something to get people's attention off his debate performance."


While employers are hiring, the pace has been far too slow to reduce unemployment in recent months. Still, while the slow recovery has been a drag on Obama's re-election hopes, the monthly reminders of joblessness have not markedly altered the trajectory of the presidential campaign.


For instance, August's weak hiring numbers were released just a day after Obama delivered his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Yet they didn't appear to interfere with Obama's post-convention bounce in public opinion polls or with perceptions that he would be as good as Romney at creating jobs.


The unemployment rate has fluctuated between 8.1 percent and 8.3 percent since January after being stuck at between 8.9 percent and 9.1 percent for 10 months in 2011. The new report gives Obama allies reason to rejoice if for no other reason than the rate dropped below the stubborn 8 percent mark that had become a political and psychological barrier. No president has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent since the Great Depression.


Romney has been inveighing against Obama as ineffective in job creation, noting time and again that the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 43 straight months. Speaking in Denver on Thursday morning, Romney said Obama would raise taxes on small businesses, "which will kill jobs."


"I instead want to keep taxes down on small business so we can create jobs," Romney added. "This is about good jobs for the American people."


At his own Denver rally Thursday, Obama countered that Romney offered the same economic remedies of the past. "We cannot afford to double down on the same top-down economic policies that got us into this mess. That is not a plan to create jobs."


Analysts and Obama advisers maintain that the unemployment number itself is less important than the trajectory, and Obama aides are quick to note that the past recession drove unemployment up to 10 percent in 2009 before it began to drop.


"As long as people are seeing improvement, at least some voters are going to say to themselves, 'well, best not to switch horses in the middle of the stream,'" Bartlett said.

But the jobless numbers, the most attention-grabbing economic data point, also don't exist in a vacuum. Other indicators, taken together, present a mixed economic recovery that is trending positive.


Consumer confidence grew last month. Average rates on fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the second straight week and mortgage applications climbed 16.6 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Still, underscoring the mixed picture, the Commerce Department said Thursday that factory orders fell 5.2 percent in August, the biggest drop in more than three years.


Last week, the Obama administration got some good news when the Labor Department reported that the economy added 386,000 more jobs than had previously been estimated in the 12 months ended in March. The revision officially put job creation under Obama's presidency in the black, with more jobs in the U.S. now than when he took office.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Oct 5, 2012 2:15PM







Oct 5, 2012 5:08PM
These numbers sound fishy to me. Why did they go up on the last report before the election? This calls for an investigation into the labor department. Did some one in the White House put pressure on the labor department to come up with some good numbers? Why such a big gain after 43 months?  I wouldn't put anything passed this administration. Fast & Furious and Lybia are good examples. 
Oct 5, 2012 9:31PM
What passes for the official unemployment numbers has been bogus for years. If I have 10 children but acknowledge only 3, it simply isnt accurate. If you take the total number of unemployed looking for work, the unemployed not looking for work, the underemployed, part time workers that would prefer full time jobs, a 1.5% GDP growth in the economy, companies fleeing the U. S. for foreign countries, a $260,000 govt debt per household-we are in DEEP S----. 
Oct 6, 2012 3:29PM
YO IDIOTs ! The dept of labor only counts people who made apps in the last 90 days ! Thats it ! They do not count people who were denied exhasted or collect benefits beyond that . And its been that way for yrs ! Its a number made for wall street! The same with inflation numbers and stats ! You have core and non core inflation ! The inflation numbers the feds give out is a joke too ! It excludes the inflation costs from food and energy . LOL Its another number made for wall street ! < The jokes on the USA ! BUT THEN MOST PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY ARE STUPID TO START WITH ! Thats why we have the most useless congress in the history of the USA... The real problem is its not Obama or the MITT WITT its the congress we have to change ! Read your constitution people !!! CONGRESS TAX AND SPENDS !!! And they are the only ones with the power to do so !!! DUH,,,, America land of the free? Home of the truly stupid... Thats the USA baby ... The best government money can buy...
Oct 8, 2012 12:24PM

let's all laugh at the stupid liberals in california paying high gas prices!

you voted for these left wing democrat green nutjobs and now your paying

for it! regulations up the wazoo is destroying cheap energy! blame your politicans!

Oct 5, 2012 6:21PM
These jobs numbers were compiled by Obama Zombies with "altitude sickness"...
Oct 8, 2012 11:58AM
If Americans want an improving economy and jobs, they'll vote for Mitt!
Oct 5, 2012 6:41PM
A BO quote------the math just doesn't add up.
Oct 8, 2012 9:43PM

Even a terminally ill person has better days than others. Whether a millionaire, welfare recpeient, union member, on medicare,social security, medicaid, government worker, republican, democrat, republican, receiving food stamps, unemployment, on and on and on,the money has already run out. If not we wouldnt have to borrow and print to forestall the catasrophe looming ahead-probably sooner than later.

Simple math works. I f we dont quickly turn in another direction, however painful, with all our faults, regardless of your personal situation, even if totally dependent on government assistance, the money will run out.I have no special wisdom to advise you on how to vote, but at a local, state or federal level, we all need to make an honest assessment of who best may start to remedy the financial armegeddon ahead.

IT WILL BE PAINFUL FOR ALL. The idealogical premise that the U. S. can tax its way out of this to take care of those in need is insane, or flood the market with fed counterfeit $ hopeing the economy recovers before the tab comes.

The simplest model of an individual or familtybudgeting and practing financial discipline to overcome rough times works at any level.What do you think if people counterfeited $ to get them through rough times and took those $ to the casino betting they wil be lucky enough to cover the funny money.

Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, have all tried the promise and spend model without realistic consideration as to where the money will come from. So has CA, IL, NY and many other states.

We will see their condition here soon enough.

The market is up due to false stimulus, traders buying and selling day to day, usually computers, not due to investors. The investor has pulled trillions out of the market and not likely to return for years , if ever. Balance sheets do not change day to day enough to justify the ups and downs the market is experiencing. Only a fool should believe the market is an indicator of financial economic health of the country. Wall street is NOT main street. 

Regardless of the unemployment rate, it is like a terminal patient with a normal pulse rate and no consideration of other signs.

Death is for sure.

Oct 9, 2012 6:40AM
The stock market is not an accomplishment, but the effect of  a loose fed policy of Bernake.  That will not last either.  The president does a fine job of making himself look bad, just remove teleprompters.

Figures don't lie, but liars will fogure.

Oct 9, 2012 11:43AM
The umeployment calculation is as phoney as Obama.  One half the jobs created last month than the same period a year ago.  Sixty thousand people are tallied and said 853k jobs were added as a result of part time work.  Hey we have baby sitters.
Oct 9, 2012 10:42AM
Obama appointees run the agencies that report job numbers. They know they will lose their jobs if Obama loses his. They will report  whatever helps him and then quietly revise the numbers later.
Oct 9, 2012 5:04PM
I'm tired of the democrats outsourcing my income. Hope should not be a strategy and welfare should not be a career path. Oblamo is one lost and clueless dumbazz.
Oct 9, 2012 6:47PM

Must have gotten a boost from all those green jobs Qbama spent OUR money on. Not INVESTED.

See the latest battery companies in Michigan laying off people today in Miichigan? One that got $256 million in Obama money is being taken over by the Chinese. The other got $156 million and hasnt made a battery yet. HA, Ha, HA, HA. The dumbest backwoods ignoramus knows that battery technology to power a vehicle is stupid as it exists today and is the same as a 100 years ago when it was abandoned for fossil fuel.

A sure sign that the whole thing is a scam is the auto companies evasiveness when asked about the costs of replacement batteries and how to safely dispose of the old batteries without environmental harm.

This administration and its green parasites, usually contributors, better get it now. The party will soon be over for them. They may actually have to get real jobs.

Oct 14, 2012 11:08AM
LOL Where are the jobs he created? I have yet to see one . Its like the Bush tax cut ? The so called 1% and wall street was to create jobs with their tax cut? LMFAO Americas still looking for the so called great job creators to make jobs ? After a decade of tax cuts to the rich we should have 2% unemploymernt by now ? LOL BTW Obama does not create jobs , the private sector does... So can you name one single job the MITT WITT made ? Just one ? LOL ...
Oct 6, 2012 3:49PM
Saturday, October 6, 2012 12:20 PM


We are very fortunate to live in a Democratic society. Every four years we go through the this inexplicable, unnecessary political exercise called a “Presidential debate” This creates an personality, ideas problem, that later emanates in forms and facts, pointing that the whole exercise is full of human sociological flows where the contenders without signing any paper to unduly promised to adhere to the laws of honesty, truth, and highest levels of human relation, and decency embarked into this areas of unknown darkness. Lies, and un-factual virtues fuels psychological detrimental flow of human egotism, political gains of name, money, and  power, with no basic considerations, respect, care for the middle class and poor people that unaware listening to the lies, vulgarities, bully encounter, and ambiguities of the challenging parties, whomever  may win the in a final  vote the right to the White House by enacting profane laws will unduly harm millions of cities that not being able to understand, and intelligently separate the truth from the lies selected the wrong g party to guide, and rule the country. Wet got an extraordinary sample in the duel of Obama vs Romney, “Presidential debate”, on October 3, 2012 at 9.00 Pm .EST

The winners scored tellers, soon declared Romney the winner of the debate. Under what socio-political guidelines was the winner selected. The first stage of control for resolving the winner, is “How many in percent of the articulated political statements weighted against the regulatory fact sheet were considered to be factual, practical and honest” in this case a very large percent of articulated statements from Romney later were found to be lies!! So, here we go, we declared the winner the liar, with an open failure of honesty, and truth!! The second statement falls in the realm of highest level of human behavior. This consists in stating the facts, the advantages of their political position, and leave to be a bully, or demanding, or defamatory out of the encounter. Unfortunately Romney fails these second criteria by pushing his weight and wishes over the Moderator and by consistently demerits the opponent with lies!! The last and third failure, Romney presented many lies to an audience of over sixty million viewers; this is again is a failure of honesty, truth, and failure of the highest levels of human relations, because he contradicted himself from previous political plans in the total plan to serve his people of the USA. Finally a winner was named, that by no mends it was a winner, and the whole USA citizens, has been smeared with untruth till the confused citizen may select the wrong leader in the White House! For all the rest of the USA, the ways of selecting a winner from a “Presidential debate” will have no meaning until the laws of truth and decency are respected by the contenders signing the proper ‘Honesty declarations”!!

Oct 8, 2012 5:05PM

As an economist who has used BLS data for years, I support these data as the best available and unbiased.  They are statistical samples subject to error and revisions, and frequently are revised as better and more complete information is obtained over the next year.  That is the way it is folks with real life---no one ever has perfect information.


However, the trend in the data are clear for the past several years, employment is slowly, slowly improving.  However, if all the  unemployed are added, there are closer to 20 million people looking for fulltime work, well over 10 percent of the total workforce.  So things are very tough, 20 million people want fulltime work, but things are better than they were 1, 2 or 3 years ago.

Oct 5, 2012 3:34PM

 please stop throwing up fox news babble. If i want to watch fox i will tune in. this is about the center vote not the partisian drool that dominates the comment page. likes and don't likes, small minds with no political core, agitated rhetoric grabbed from radio and cable shows. good sheep who finger point into a house of mirrors. the left/right bubble pops when the real political process in the electorial college takes place. VOTE its your right, spinning everything you hear to offend and disjoint should be left up to the talking heads who get paid. a ghost has no spirit, haunts from the past and is without a core. Neither here nor their, a figment without substance and as unbelievable as bigfoot or vampires.   

Oct 8, 2012 5:37PM

The far right likes high unemployment because it makes Obama look bad.They won`t mention that

the Dow is up 66%.Ypu`ll never hear that from the Nazi, racist on Fox or that we`ve had 31

straight months of job growth.We can`t afford to lose this Pres.

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