Of course, President Obama and his economic team are spinning hard, but they know today’s employment report is really, really bad news for them.
If you don’t know what’s going on, and if you just listen to the White House, it sounds pretty good. The economy in December generated 103,000 jobs and unemployment fell four tenths of a percentage point to 9.4 percent.
But this is not what the White House wanted.
Economists had expected a gain of about 150,000 jobs. And the jobs number does not keep pace with population growth. That means, effectively, employment fell again. What’s more, the rate of growth appears to be falling or stalling, with the number coming in for the second straight month below a bigger gain in October.
The reduction in unemployment is due mainly to workers getting so discouraged that they stopped looking for jobs altogether, taking them out of the workforce and out of the unemployment count. If they are included, the “real” unemployment rate is 16.7 percent.
According to a sobering report in the New York Times, the latest figures suggest unemployment is likely to remain above 8 percent for the rest of Obama’s term.
That will be a strong rallying cry for Republicans given the administration’s inept 2009 prediction that with the stimulus, unemployment would NEVER GET ABOVE 8 PERCENT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
The problem for Obama, as the Times story notes, is that without significant improvement before the Republicans have gotten into power, any change in the economy’s fortunes will allow the GOP to argue that they were responsible. And if the economy doesn’t turn around, the blame will stick with Obama, and the GOP will claim it needs the Senate and the presidency to make things right.