Last Jobs Report Before the Election

The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9% from 7.8% in October, but that was because more people were looking for work.

There were 171,000 jobs added in October, more than the 125,00 economists anticipated, plus the August and September numbers were revised upward, with another 84,000 jobs added.

Nothing election-changing here.

“Rough Justice” in Unemployment Drop

From “Jobs Report:  Cooked Or Correct?,” Joe Nocera, NYT:

“It’s worth pointing out that the last time anyone accused the Bureau of Labor Statistics of being politically motivated was Richard Nixon.

[T]he idea that a handful of career bureaucrats, their jobs secure no matter who is in the White House, would manipulate the unemployment data to help President Obama, is ludicrous.  Jack Welch knows it, too; when I called him Friday afternoon, he quickly backpedaled. ‘I’m not accusing anybody of anything,’ he protested. [Welch had tweeted: “Unbelievable job numbers.  These Chicago guys will do anything.  Can’t debate so change numbers.”]

“[T]here is something truly absurd about having the presidential race hinge on the unemployment rate.  Even putting aside the reliability of the short-term numbers, the harsh reality is that no president has much control over the economy.  That is especially true of President Obama, whose every effort to boost the economy these past two years has been stymied by Republicans.  Again and again, they have shown they would rather see the country suffer economically than do anything that might help Obama’s re-election.

There is rough justice in the way things are playing out.  Having spent the last year wrongly blaming the president for high unemployment, Republicans can only stand by helplessly as the unemployment rate goes down at the worst possible moment for them.

“But the data were largely overwhelmed by positive signals.  In its revised figures for July and August, for instance, the bureau said that more jobs had been created than it originally estimated.  People with only high school degrees were finding jobs.  The number of people who had been out of work for six months or more was at its lowest point in three years.

“Whether the Republicans like it or not, the economy is slowly getting better.

“Awful, isn’t it?”  Emphasis added.

The Weapon of “Weaponized Keynesianism”

From “Obstruct and Exploit,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“Anyway, do Republicans really believe that government spending is bad for the economy?  No.

“Right now, Mitt Romney has an advertising blitz under way in which he attacks Mr. Obama for possible cuts in defense spending — cuts, by the way, that were mandated by an agreement forced on the president by House Republicans [that would be you, Paul Ryan] last year.  And why is Mr. Romney denouncing these cuts?  Because, he says, they would cost jobs!

“This is classic ‘weaponized Keynesianism’ — the claim that government spending can’t create jobs unless the money goes to defense contractors, in which case it’s the lifeblood of the economy.  And no, it doesn’t make any sense.”

More Jobs Than Expected

The economy created 163,000 jobs in July, more than expected, and much better than the past four months.

But unemployment ticked up to 8.3%.

The numbers come from different surveys.  The jobs number comes from a business survey, while the unemployment number comes from a household survey.

The number voters focus on is the unemployment rate, and President Obama needs it to be heading down.

I’ve been hoping it would decline to 7.9% for the October report released days before the election.  Crossing that 8% threshold would be important psychologically.

Quote of the Evening

“The stimulus was not, as conservatives have convinced many of their fellow Americans, big government on steroids; it was Keynesian economics on birth control. It did not restore the 8 million jobs lost to the crash of 2008 or provide the 200,000 jobs a month needed for new entrants into the labor market, but it did prevent a second Great Depression.”

Drew Westen, “If Obama loses the election, here’s why,” WaPo

Was Mitt Set Up on Bain?

I’m wondering if Mitt has been set up over Bain to make the story not about jobs, but about honesty.

Mitt ran twice in Massachusetts, with the story of how he’d caused workers to lose their jobs and benefits used against him both times.  Ted Kennedy used it effectively to defeat Mitt and keep his Senate seat.  But it didn’t work as well for Shannon O’Brien, who lost to Mitt for governor.

So the sad stories about the folks whom Mitt callously fired weren’t a sure thing for the presidential race.  Might work, might not.  Voters understand about the “creative destruction” part of capitalism, that jobs and industries come and go.  Mitt might have been especially ruthless about not giving folks notice and severance pay, but Americans realize that very few of us work at the buggy whip factory anymore.

But the Massachusetts history also offered another way to attack Mitt on Bain — Mitt’s insistence that he had left the company in February 1999 to run the Olympics and wasn’t involved in or responsible for anything that occurred after that date.  At the time it was called a part-time leave of absence, consistent with two prior leaves he’d taken — one to fix Bain Capital’s parent company when it was near bankruptcy and another to run for Senate.  It was assumed he’d return, as he had both other times.  Would he really cut off any involvement with this company he owned and was still head of and let it possibly be run into the ground?

So going into the 2012 race, Mitt was stuck with his unequivocal claims about when he’d left Bain, dating back both to his Massachusetts run for governor and his 2008 run for president.  But those claims are inconsistent with all kinds of documentary evidence, from SEC filings to candidate disclosures to contemporaneous newspaper articles.

I’m wondering if someone saw that the real way to catch Mitt was not to focus on his trail of lost jobs, but rather on his trail of lies.  I’m wondering which political party that someone belongs to.

Green Shoot Alert!

From “Housing Passes a Milestone,” David Wessel, WSJ:

“Nearly seven years after the housing bubble burst, most indexes of house prices are bending up.

“Economists aren’t always right, but on this at least they agree:  A new Wall Street Journal survey of forecasters found 44 believe the housing market has reached its bottom; only three don’t.

“For some time, housing has been one of the biggest causes of economic weakness.  It has now — barely — moved to the plus side.

“From here on, housing is unlikely to drag the U. S. economy down further.  It will instead reflect the strength or weakness of the overall economy:  The more jobs, the more confident Americans are about keeping their jobs, the more they are willing to buy houses.”  Italics in original.