The Wall Street Journal reports: “U.S. job growth slowed in March, and the labor force shrank, signaling that the economy could be losing momentum. Jobs outside of agriculture grew by 120,000 last month — half the number that the economy added the prior month — the Labor Department said Friday, marking the first time since November that job growth fell below 200,000.” The job gain was well below expectations and was accompanied by further shrinking of the labor pool: “Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 203,000 in payrolls and for the jobless rate to remain at 8.3% for March. Economists and Federal Reserve officials have said they expect job growth to moderate in 2012 as overall demand in the economy remains weak, gasoline prices rise and Europe slows. Friday’s report is the first sign that growth could be moderating.”
“Moderate” is one way to put it; “stall” or “fizzle” would be how critics of the White House may describe what seems to be happening to the “recovery.” We have an all-time high of nearly 88 million Americans out of the workforce. Had the labor-participation rate returned to pre-recession levels the unemployment rate would be at 10.5 percent.
Mitt Romney’s argument on President Obama’s economic performance therefore has been well formulated and accurate. Today he released this statement: “This is a weak and very troubling jobs report that shows the employment market remains stagnant. Millions of Americans are paying a high price for President Obama’s economic policies, and more and more people are growing so discouraged that they are dropping out of the labor force altogether. It is increasingly clear the Obama economy is not working and that after three years in office the President’s excuses have run out.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed that theme, tying the weak jobs report to the president’s policies: “Today’s report shows that families and small businesses are still struggling to get by because of President Obama’s failed economic policies. Unemployment is far too high, paychecks are shrinking, gas prices are rising faster than ever, and our debt now exceeds the size of our entire economy. Unfortunately, the president is refusing to get serious about addressing our fiscal and economic challenges. His budget, which would raise taxes and put us further in debt to China, did not pick up a single vote in the House, and he continues to push higher taxes as the antidote to higher gas prices.”
Obama will have to convince voters that 8 percent unemployment and a puny recovery (in comparison to previous ones) are grounds for cheering. Good luck with that.