The figures for July are in, and they’re a mixed bag:
Continuing a long slog upward from the depths of the recession, the American economy added 163,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in July, the Labor Department said on Friday. That compares to a revised 64,000 jobs added in June.
July’s job growth was higher than economists had been expecting, but no one is yet popping Champagne corks. The unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent.
It’s bad news for President Obama: job creation isn’t keeping pace with population growth, and no president in recent history has managed to get re-elected with such high unemployment figures. And the increase in the headline unemployment rate will have more impact on the public mood than the actual jobs number.
It’s also bad news for the young. The youth unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds is 13.5 percent and is probably higher when you count the number of people who have simply quit looking for a job. The under-25 subset of the millennial generation has been trending away from President Obama; the new unemployment numbers suggest that trend could be around for a while.
Overall, however, while the news for the White House isn’t good, the news for the country isn’t that bad. The spring doldrums aren’t turning to a summer slump, and it looks less and less like a double dip recession, and more and more like a continuing slow recovery.
Political scientists say that voters’ impressions of the economy are fixed well before the election, so what we see this summer is probably the economy that voters take with them into the polling booth. Barring a radical shift in the numbers, President Obama can’t claim a lot of economic success, but things aren’t quite bad enough to put re-election out of reach.
The economy is so-so; the election is too close to call.