October's solid jobs report — and what it means for the presidential race
Are we heading for a winter of recovery? The Labor Department reported on Friday that the economy added a solid 171,000 jobs in October, beating the consensus estimate of forecasters. The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent, but the increase was driven by more people returning to the labor force and looking for work — an indication that the labor market is on the mend. And in further good news, the Labor Department upwardly revised its numbers for September and August, showing that the economy added 84,000 more jobs than initially reported. The report was largely seen as a heartening indication that the economy, which has alternated between spurts of growth and setbacks, is finally approaching escape velocity. "Overall, a very solid report," says Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider.
It is also the last jobs report before Election Day, giving a boost to President Obama as he attempts to convince voters that the economy is heading in the right direction. And the numbers come after a week in which the president was praised for his response to Hurricane Sandy (most notably by Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey), and won a coveted endorsement from New York City Mayor Michel Bloomberg. Ezra Klein at The Washington Post says it's an ideal way to close out the race:
Between high marks on handling Sandy, Christie, Bloomberg and jobs, Obama is having an extremely good run at the end of this campaign
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 2, 2012
However, it's undeniable that the jobless rate remains quite high. In that sense, Mitt Romney's case for election — that he can better handle the economy — won't change. Romney himself said the report shows that the economy is at a "virtual standstill." And Team Romney is sure to highlight the fact that the jobless rate went up in October, says Chuck Todd at NBC News:
Likely campaign spins: Obama will focus on the 171K jobs added and generic "under 8%"; Romney will focus on the rate "rise"
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) November 2, 2012
As a result, the report is unlikely to change the election in a dramatic way, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post:
It solidifies the fundamentals that have persisted for many months now — this is a weak recovery, but it is a recovery, which means a very close presidential race, with a narrow advantage to the incumbent.
What these numbers really mean is that the last remaining catastrophe that could have derailed Obama’s reelection effort didn’t happen.
And in the end, this is potentially good news for for both Republicans and Democrats, as the latest report is evidence that the economy is on the upswing, says Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:
Whoever wins on Tuesday inherits a jobs recovery that's clearly gaining momentum
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) November 2, 2012