The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent last month as the economy added 243,000 jobs, a sign that the economic recovery is sustaining itself.
The report is probably good news for President Obama. The rate dropped not because people are exiting the workforce, but because companies are hiring.
But there is some risk for Obama here too. Most forecasts project slow growth the rest of the year. If hiring does not continue at a strong pace, and people who have left the workforce return and start looking for jobs, the unemployment rate will start to inch back up.
If this is the start of more robust growth than expected, then Obama has a lot to be happy about. But if not, it could be that the unemployment rate has come down too soon for him, and that it would have been better to see these kind of decreases closer to Election Day.
The White House is already seeking to use the report to its advantage. Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan B. Krueger released a statement this morning using the report to tout Obama’s policies and launch the upcoming brawl with Republicans over the payroll tax cut extension.
Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007. Most importantly, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year, and take the additional steps that President Obama proposed in his State of the Union address to create an economy built to last.
I’m sure Republicans will go right out and pass all his proposals.
Also remember, unemployment was at 7.8 percent when Obama took office. If he doesn’t have it below 8 percent on Election Day, Republicans will always have a case that things are worse.