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Dismal Jobs Report Boosts Romney’s Chances

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report for May on Friday, and the Obama administration was stunned by the numbers. America added a paltry 69,000 new jobs last month, and the numbers for previous months have been revised downwards by nearly 50,000. As Matt Yglesias notes, this amounts to a net gain of 20,000 jobs, a deeply discouraging number that even the world’s greatest spinmeisters can’t do much with.

The May jobs report is the first economic news story of the year to have a measurable impact on perceptions of the 2012 presidential race. As people digested the news, the popular betting market Intrade showed Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the presidency have risen to 41.2 percent, an astonishing rise of 6.3 percent since yesterday.

Whether the bad economic news will feed into the polls remains to be seen. After losing ground to Romney for most of the last couple of months, it has seemed more recently as if President Obama was edging ahead. But the primary impact of the bad news may be on the economy. Stocks swooned yesterday as the major indices posted losses of more than two percent. With nothing good expected from Europe anytime soon, and China and India looking less healthy, a struggling US economy doesn’t have much to sustain it.

Put the bad world news together with investor fears about the huge policy uncertainties in the US (tax cuts expire, mandatory budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect), and it seems like a bad time to take risks or start big new projects. If corporations and entrepreneurs think that way, job numbers and GDP numbers will continue to stink, perhaps for the rest of the year.

Nobody will remember the May jobs report in November, but if we have another five months of dismal economic performance, the incumbent will be swimming against the tide. It’s not the bad news about May that has the White House worried; it’s what all this bad news means for the next few months.

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  • thibaud

    If the economic bad news keeps coming, then the election won’t even be close – despite what the polls say or don’t say. If the unemployment curve in Sept-Oct is rising, then the incumbent will be blown out in a landslide election a la 1980.

    OTOH if unemployment stabilizes, then the election will be very close, and the Democratic incumbent will have the edge due to the inherent demographic advantages and the swing state math. The Republican would have to run the tables on _all_ the key swing states, FL OH VA CO, and this isn’t going to happen unless the economy gets worse.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    This election is going to be like the 1980 Reagan-Carter landslide, and for the same reason, a weak leader that isn’t up to the job.

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