Jobs report is more bad news for Obama

September 7, 2012

There is very little good news for President Obama in the new August jobs report, despite the fact that the unemployment rate technically fell.

The number of jobless American workers decreased from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent in August, according to new figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That might seem good on the surface, but in reality it's because a huge number of people simply gave up trying to find work and dropped out of the pool of potential workers.


In fact, the 368,000 people who dropped out of the workforce in August is the largest attrition since December 2010.

The economy, meanwhile, continues to create jobs at a slower pace than analysts say is required to effect a recovery, with 96,000 jobs created for the month.

That 96,000 figure is lower than the 141,000 jobs that were created in July and is the fourth time in five months that job growth has failed to crack six digits. (Analysts generally say the economy needs to create around 200,000 jobs per month in a recovery.)

Which, politically speaking, leaves President Obama pretty much where he was before: in a tough spot.

Democrats will still be able to argue that there has now been positive job growth for 30 straight months, and the recovery is real, if not as fast as they -- or anyone -- would hope.

Republicans will still be able to argue that the progress simply isn't fast enough. And it's evident now that the unemployment rate will, in all likelihood, remain above 8 percent through Election Day. That number is both a number that the Obama administration suggested wouldn't be breached post-stimulus and a number that no president in modern history has won reelection with.

While the overall economic trend is much the same as it was before, this has to be considered bad news for Obama. Heading into November, he really could use some more obvious signs of economic progress that would change the narrative a little -- or at least give the American public a glimmer of hope that things are ramping up.

And it would have been a great way for his campaign to round out its convention week, in which it crystallized Obama's case for another term and spent plenty of time arguing that Americans are indeed better off than they were four years ago.

As it stands, with two more jobs reports to go before the November election (including one just four days before Election Day), that glimmer of hope is faint if not invisible to many voters, and Obama is pretty clearly going to have to win reelection in a clearly stagnant economy.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | September 7, 2012