The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Jobs Report: Bad for the White House, But No Knock Out Blow

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.

Published on August 3, 2012 12:00 pm
  • Kevin

    Actually the economy didn’t add 163,000 jobs. It lost 266,000 or so. Then a preposterously large leasonal adjustment (the largest ever for July as near as I can see) was added to turn this loss into a gain. To add icing to this statistical concoction the BLS then added over 50,000 new jobs due to assumed new small business creation – over ten times what they used the previous month.

    For those of us in the real world trying to engage in commerce, there are a quarter million fewer Americans with jobs to buy our products and services this month.

    This seems to be one of the most politically manipulated BLS reports ever.

  • Roz

    Watch for that downward revision in coming days. How many downward revisions have we seen in this administration compared to upward revisions?

  • thibaud

    If unemployment increases significantly between now and Nov., the incumbent loses.

    If not, then Mitt the Twit will lose – and it won’t be “too close to call.”

    Especially if he picks Paul “Don’t call me a libertarian!” Ryan as his running mate.

  • Jim.

    @Roz-

    Great question. Proessor Mead, can you spare an intern to research that, and provide a handy graph of the results?

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @thibaud:

    “If unemployment increases significantly between now and Nov., the incumbent loses.”

    Did you come with this rule all by yourself or Axelrod email told you so?

    Please provide an example of incumbent other than Roosevelt reelected with unemployment above 8% for all of his presidency.

    Did Axelrod worked it out for you?

  • thibaud

    Mick – nope, Axelrod “didn’t worked it out” for anyone.

    The logic’s simple: Romney needs to run the tables on ALL of the swing states. That will happen only if the economy gets worse, which isn’t happening.

    Nate Silver now estimates the probability of an Obama win at 71%.

  • thibaud

    The other reason to expect an Obama win is the GOP candidate himself. He’s a disaster. A combination of Bob Dole and John Kerry.

    Note also that Romney’s putting his chips on, of all things, tax reform. Rather stupid, given the man’s failure to come clean about his own taxes…

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @thibaud:

    “Nate Silver now estimates the probability of an Obama win at 71%.”

    Oh, of course.
    That settles it. No need to have elections.

    Not that’s matter, but who [the heck] is Nate Silver?

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @thibaud:

    “The logic’s simple: Romney needs to run the tables on ALL of the swing states.

    That will happen only if the economy gets worse, which isn’t happening.”

    1. If this is logic, I’m Michael Phelps twin brother.

    2. Your list of swing states is so unique, it should be registered a new scientific discovery.

    All the swing state lists I have seen do not require Mittens to win them all in order to knock out B Hussein.

    3. You say that no matter how bad the economy is, if it is not getting worse the incumbent gets swing states.

    This observation is so brilliant and fresh, you must patent it. A Nobel Prize in Economics just may be awarded for this brilliant insight.

    A funny thing is I share your underlying assumption, an average US voter is a ignorant dude with an attention span of 5 minutes.

    I just think that enough of these ignoramuses have constant reminder how much worse things are compare to 3-5 years ago:

    Like having a house in foreclosure,

    Like being unemployed for the last 18 months,

    Like having a new job that pays half of what an old job paid.

    Perhaps in the end you will be right, it is possible that moronization of US electorate proceeded far enough and it is totally uncapable of any rational thought.

    I guess I’m an optimist here.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @thibaud:

    “Romney’s putting his chips on … tax reform. Rather stupid, given the man’s failure to come clean about his own taxes…”

    Given you passionate hatred of Mittens, you are not able to rationally analyze his 1,000 (or is it 100,000?) points economic plan.

    There are many items there beside tax rates. Some of them look quite reasonable to me.

    Obam campaign needs Mittens taxes to manufacture continues stream of controversies and scandals out of hot air for the rest of campaign.

    Like they did with Mittens foreign trip. Except taxes are impenetrable by most people, MSM can just assert whatever Axelrod will tell them.

    MSM is part of Obam campaign with no decency or shame.

    If manufactured foreign trip gaffs can easily be shown as fake to a regular voter (not that it is worthwhile to waste time on it at this stage), fake tax controversies will waste a lot of Mittens campaign bandwidth.

    Mittens could neutralize tax demands by demanding Pelosi and Reid produce their returns and have Reid explain how he became so rich on $200K/year Senatorial wage.

    Pelosi husband certainly has some unsavory business dealing, she will never allow audit of her family affairs.

    “The other reason to expect an Obama win is the GOP candidate himself. He’s a disaster. A combination of Bob Dole and John Kerry.”

    Your hatred for poor Willard Mittens gets the better of you.
    While a pretty poor performer in political theater, Willard got great hair (50% of success with female voters), tall and good looking man for his age.
    Undecipherable old coot Bob Dole he is not.

    Mittens can explain his positions, even flip-flops, John Kerry could not explain anything while asserting that he was always crystal clear.

    Mittens had superb business career, Dole and Kerry are life-time pols. A businessman background is negative for some morons, they are Obam voters anyway.

    It is big positive for many sane independents.

  • thibaud

    Nate Silver is by far the best, most impartial, professional, accessible analyst of polling data around. He predicted every state but one correctly in the last presidential election, and called every single Senate race correctly as well. He’s known for his fair-minded, evenhanded treatment of D and R -leaning pollsters alike.

    Romney embracing tax reform is like John Edwards running on a family values platform.

    I mean, really, Mick: the man is stubbornly refusing to disclose even the most basic information about his own taxes. And the period in question just so happens to be the one when, among other things, there was a financial meltdown, a tax amnesty for owners of offshore tax-dodging accounts, and national debate about major changes to the tax laws concerning family gifts and inheritances.

    You’re smarter than that, Mick. No one denies Romney’s cleverness with his Staples coup. But it’s obvious that he’s desperate to hide something, or more likely many things, about his tax dodging during and after the 2008 financial collapse.

    That’s the time when the rest of us, those without Caymans “blocker” accounts and hundreds of other offshore entities, got clobbered. Romney had credibility as a national politician before 2008. He has precious little now.

  • thibaud

    Fwiw I agree that Nancy Pelosi is a rather unsavory, hypocritical character.

  • thibaud

    Mick – very interesting new book coming out re. Obama’s attitude toward Romney. Like me and, I suspect most voters, the president has come to dislike the man intensely. The more you know about Romney, the more you dislike him.

    Romney looks good from a distance but when his character’s in the spotlight, you begin to see him as weaselly, cocky, tone-deaf, self-absorbed.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-quickly-developed-genuine-disdain-romney_649351.html