The October jobs report isn’t going to change many votes. In fact, none of the monthly jobs reports have had the impact of the debates, for example.
There is something for each side to latch onto in this report. The president will point to the 171,000 jobs created in October and adjustments upward for August and September, while Republicans will note the higher unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, higher than when Barack Obama took office. The economy this year is adding on average (157,000) per month, about the same as it did in 2011 (153,000). In sum, the economy is not getting worse, but there is no sign of a breakthrough or a real jump-start.
Mitt Romney responded with a statement, which reads in part: “Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill. The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work. On Tuesday, America will make a choice between stagnation and prosperity. For four years, President Obama’s policies have crushed America’s middle class. For four years, President Obama has told us that things are getting better and that we’re making progress. For too many American families, those words ring hollow.”
Not surprisingly, Republicans want to hold Obama to his promises. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus put out a statement that included this: “President Obama’s policies have not worked. In 2009, he promised his $833 billion stimulus would create millions of ‘shovel-ready jobs’ and reduce the unemployment rate to under 5.5 percent by today. Yet here we sit, with millions of Americans still looking for work and unemployment hovering near 8 percent. By President Obama’s own standard, he has not succeeded. He promised to fix the economy ‘in three years’ or ‘face a one term proposition.’ The economy is not fixed, and on Tuesday Americans will have the chance to accept his proposition.”
Doug Holtz-Eakin of the conservative American Action Forum pointed to several troubling statistics, including a decline in weekly work hours, a decline in weekly and hourly earnings and an uptick in Hispanic unemployment to 10 percent. He concludes that the job report “is consistent with the slow recovery thus far and not evidence of an economy bullet-proof from the threats from Europe and the fiscal cliff.”
What we’ve seen in this election is not so much a debate about whether Obama has succeeded. The majority of voters think he hasn’t. The question is whether Romney has presented himself as a credible alternative with a better vision. He largely accomplished that in the debates. The issue now is who will turn out to vote.