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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Many observers wondered last night why President Obama seemed a little off his game; his acceptance of his party’s presidential nomination will not be remembered among his all time greatest hits. This morning’s jobs numbers may be the reason why. Last night the President already knew that the morning would bring a cold shower of bad news and undercut any claims he hoped to make about the path the economy was on.

There is a small ray of comfort for the White House in the headline jobless figure; the report won’t be seen as an unmitigated disaster. At least the headline number went down, but the commentariat will focus relentlessly on the deep economic weaknesses the numbers reveal. Slow job growth is the worst possible area of weakness right now, and the disappointing August numbers on top of the downward revision for July are, from the Democratic point of view, a major buzz kill. Add to that that the average number of jobs created in 2011 is now below the average level for 2010, and the narrative of a slow but developing recovery has been holed below the waterline — at least until another month brings another set of numbers and, possibly, a more hopeful message.

We will have to wait another few days to see whether the Democratic convention moved the needle on the polls. But the economic background of the fall campaign has now been established in a way the White House cannot welcome. Whatever we are doing hasn’t worked yet; it’s not even close.

Knowing these numbers as he set out to make his case for re-election last night may have helped the President avoid a triumphalist speech that would have looked bad this morning. But the cold weight of bad numbers may also have dulled his delivery as he kicked off his official campaign.


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