Jobless Rate Falls to 7.8%, Lowest Level of Obama’s Term
The nation’s unemployment rate dropped sharply to 7.8 percent in September, its lowest level since the month President Obama took office, the Labor Department said Friday.
While employers added only a modest 114,000 jobs last month, the jobless rate declined from 8.1 percent in August. The unemployment rate fell because more people were working, not because discouraged job seekers stopped looking, the numbers showed.
Adding to the positive news, job gains were revised upward by 40,000 for July (to 181,000) and by 46,000 for August (to 142,000), casting a slightly rosier light on what had been perceived as a summer slump.
Rising employment is good news for President Obama a month before the election as he vies to convince voters that he is better equipped than his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, to steer the economy back to health.
Though the new numbers were in line with a surge in consumer confidence last month, even before their release some of the president’s detractors were trying to suggest that the data were, or could be, manipulated in the incumbent’s favor.
On CNBC, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis dismissed the implications as “ludicrous” and there was no evidence of any irregularity.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the Labor Department but has no political appointees at the moment, computes the numbers from two surveys, one of businesses and one of households. By definition, the data in both surveys are not precise and are subject to regular revisions. Recently, those revisions have showed a strengthening labor market, suggesting that if anything the economy may be improving more than initially reported.
Still, Mr. Romney took issue with any positive interpretation of the latest jobs report.
“This is not what a real recovery looks like,” he said in a statement. “We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office.”
Indeed, manufacturing, one of the bright spots that Mr. Obama has showcased throughout the re-election campaign, fell 16,000 jobs after losing a revised 22,000 in August in the face of a global slowdown. And the number of temporary jobs, usually considered a harbinger of future growth, fell 2,000.
Still, while Republicans can criticize the recovery’s mincing pace, Democrats can point to the 24th straight month of overall job growth after a severe financial crisis.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, said the report “shows that the balanced policies advanced by President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate are working to move our economy forward.”
The private sector, which has been adding jobs since March 2010, grew by 104,000 workers in September. Governments, where job cuts have been a drag on the recovery, added 10,000 jobs, their third straight month of gains.
Wages and hours worked ticked up, combining to increase earnings by 0.7 percent, and construction jobs grew by 5,000 as a housing market recovery began to gain momentum.
There are now almost the same number of jobs as when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009. Since the economy stopped hemorrhaging jobs in February 2010, there has been an increase of more than 400,000. A mere 62,000 increase in the number of jobs would allow Mr. Obama to claim a net increase in jobs over his tenure.
This year, the economy has added an average of 146,000 jobs a month. Economists say that job growth of between 100,000 and 175,000 a month is essentially neutral in terms of its effect on the election, while anything greater would favor the incumbent.
Still, Nigel Gault, the chief United States economist at HIS Global Insight, wrote that he believes Friday’s report was “highly significant politically” but “less significant economically,” noting that underemployment, which counts people who would like to work full time but can find only part-time jobs, was unchanged over August. It was down over the year, from 16.4 million to 14.7 million.
to be fair I think this is largely emplyoers getting ready for the fourth quarter and Christmas but it is good schadefreude given that my mailbox has suddenly started being stuffed with "OVER 8% UNEMPLOYEMENT" each day