After the release of one of the strongest jobs reports in years on Friday, Democrats hailed the new numbers as evidence of an economy that is slowly but surely recovering.
Republicans, meanwhile, said there are still plenty of holes in the numbers.
The topline numbers? The unemployment rate dropped in February from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent — the lowest rate since 2008 — and 236,000 jobs were added — the second-highest monthly jobs gain in the last year.
“Today’s numbers show that our economy is growing, and is poised to grow even faster in the months to come,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, before carefully adding: “There is still much work to be done to bring unemployment down in Nevada and across the nation.”
Alan Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, echoed Reid: “While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides evidence that the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction.”
Republicans pointed to other data that suggest the gains are tenuous, or not real at all.
The GOP-aligned YG Network issue advocacy group pointed out that Gallup numbers released Thursday showed the percentage of people participating in the workforce actually dropped in February, from 68.1 percent to 67.8 percent — which suggests people have given up looking for jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a similar, but smaller, drop, from 63.6 percent to 63.5 percent.
“Too many Americans are still searching for full-time work,” said the YG Network’s Mark Bednar. “Conservatives cannot become complacent in the drive to advocate policy that creates jobs. The headlines of 7.7 unemployment and strong stocks do not tell the whole story.”
Some Republicans did praise the jobs report, though most suggested it would be stronger if Washington can rein in spending in the upcoming budget debate.
“Any job creation is positive news, but the fact is unemployment in America is still way above the levels the Obama White House projected when the trillion-dollar stimulus spending bill was enacted, and the federal government’s ongoing spending binge has resulted in a debt that exceeds the size of our entire economy,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics report, we should stress, only includes February, and thus does not reflect the impact of the automatic cuts contained in the so-called sequester. The March jobs report will provide a window into that.