The White House and the media were ecstatic about Friday's BLS unemployment report, which showed the national jobless rate dropping to 8.3 percent, as the US economy added 243,000 jobs. These should be welcome results for all Americans, CBO's harrowing 2012 economic projections notwithstanding. Although the headlines were uniformly positive, reality isn't quite as cheery. Leftist Paul Krugman notes that long-term unemployment remains historically persistent, the U-6 "real" unemployment rate still floats above 15 percent, and -- most distressingly -- the labor force continues to contract. Zero Hedge documented Friday's flat-out bad news (emphasis his):
A month ago, we joked when we said that for Obama to get the unemployment rate to negative by election time, all he has to do is to crush the labor force participation rate to about 55%. Looks like the good folks at the BLS heard us: it appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented record 1.2 million. No, that's not a typo: 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month! So as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million. Which means that the civilian labor force tumbled to a fresh 30 year low of 63.7% as the BLS is seriously planning on eliminating nearly half of the available labor pool from the unemployment calculation.
The Heritage Foundation confirms the plunge in labor force participation in this chart, followed by another graph demonstrating that by the Obama administration's own projections (which were used to sell the stimulus to anxious Americans in 2009), the unemployment rate should be more than two percentage points lower than today's 8.3 percent:
And the failed-on-its-own-terms "stimulus" data:
Nevertheless, saccharine headlines and "I get better with age!" happy talk from President Obama -- matched with a lackluster and increasingly bitter GOP primary -- will give the incumbent an approval boost. Right on cue, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll purports to show Obama hitting the magic 50 percent mark and leading Mitt Romney in head-to-head general election contest. Celebrate good times, Democrats! Except...the poll is "worthless," according to Hot Air's Ed Morrissey. Why?
First, this is a poll of general population adults rather than registered or likely voters, so it’s not even a proper polling type for the predictive outcome they claim. More importantly, though, the poll series has dropped its reporting of partisan identification within their samples. It’s the second time that the poll has not included the D/R/I split in its sample report, and now it looks as though this will be policy from this point forward. Since this is a poll series that has handed double-digit partisan advantages to Democrats in the past (for instance, this poll from April 2011 where the sample only had 22% Republicans), it’s not enough to just hear “trust us” on sample integrity from the Washington Post or ABC. One cannot determine whether Obama’s improvement in this series is a result of the State of the Union speech, as Dan Balz and Jon Cohen suggest, or whether it’s due to shifting the sample to favor Democrats more so than in previous samples.
Indeed, WaPo/ABC's numbers have been raked over the coals by conservatives in the past for their ludicrously unbalanced party ID samples. This pollster has displayed an interesting habit of surveying far more Democrats than Republicans, which -- surprise! -- produces favorable data for Democrats. Rather than be held to account for their questionable methods, WaPo/ABC has simply decided to hide their methodology from the public altogether. Which reminds me: I'd like to announce the release of a new nationwide poll of likely voters that shows Barack Obama's approval rating falling to 36 percent. This IGB* survey reveals that Obama would lose to every possible Republican opponent by at least seven points. Whom did this pollster question, you ask? It's IGB's policy to adhere to the Washington Post/ABC News precedent and not release that data. But by all means, please talk about these important findings ad nauseam on television and radio.
All sarcasm aside, this election cycle will have peaks and valleys. This latest poll will get breathless attention from liberals, while conservatives will point to Gallup's recent swing-state data and other numbers. Polls are addictive to horse-race watchers (guilty as charged), but they won't become truly meaningful until late September. Recall that McCain-Palin raced out to a ten point lead among likely voters in Gallup on the heels of the 2008 RNC. The rollercoaster ride continues...
UPDATE - A Democratic pollster is questioning another element of the WaPo/ABC numbers.
*IGB is a new polling firm that exists entirely in this author's mind. Methodology inquiries will be ignored. Thank you.