The Labor Department added a new wrinkle to the presidential campaign on Thursday, when it reported that the economy actually added 386,000 more jobs than previously thought from April 2011 to March 2012. President Obama's team welcomed the revised figures, saying they proved "we are making progress" toward recovering "from the worst crisis since the Great Depression." GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign said the rosier figures don't change anything. "There are 23 million Americans struggling to find work right now," Romney adviser Kevin Madden said, "and the president has nothing more to offer than tax hikes and more regulations." What exactly does the unexpected uptick in employment figures really mean? Here, four significant points to consider:
1. We shouldn't be shocked by these revisions
This doesn't mean companies went "on a previously undetected hiring spree," says Ben Casselman at The Wall Street Journal. "The Labor Department just got access to better data." The feds make monthly estimates based on a survey of 160,000 employers, then, once a year, revise the employment figures based on actual tax records. That's "more accurate — but much less timely."
2. And should treat the monthly jobs reports with a grain of salt
Politicians and economists always pounce when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly jobs report, says Brad Plumer at The Washington Post. But this latest revision "suggests that we could all probably stand" to cool it a bit. Why put so much emphasis on numbers that are "almost never the last word on how the economy’s actually performing"? In 2009, "the economy actually lost 902,000 more jobs than the monthly jobs reports had initially suggested." In 2011, it turns out the jobs reports underestimated the number of jobs being created by an average of 67,000 jobs per month.
3. This deprives Romney of a key talking point
This news is great for America, but terrible for Mitt Romney, says Steve Benen at MSNBC. He probably was looking forward to arguing in next week's debate "that the economy hasn't added any new jobs during Obama's term." That talking point "was always ridiculous," given that employment was already plummeting downward when Obama took office, making it grossly unfair to pin early 2009 job losses on him. Now, though, Romney's "talking point is off the table entirely," because the new figures mean the economy has added a net total of 125,000 jobs on Obama's watch, instead of losing 261,000 as previously estimated. "It also means more jobs were created in Obama's first four years than during George W. Bush's first four years — and Bush didn't inherit a global economic catastrophe."
4. But the GOP still has plenty of ammo against Obama
The fact that the Labor Department just "magically" created a bunch of jobs "changes nothing," says Conn Carroll at The Washington Examiner. The job market today is still "incredibly weak," and it "has gotten weaker the past two months." Not only that, but the employment news was offset by a fresh flurry of scary economic data — durable good orders fell in August by the most since the recession, and second-quarter economic growth was downgraded from 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent. Even with these jobs, "the Obama economy is failing."